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UTHealth’s Carmen Dessauer elected to scientific association

HOUSTON - (Jan. 17, 2012) - Carmen Dessauer, Ph.D., a cell signaling researcher at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth), has been named a fellow in the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the journal Science. Cell signaling exams the fundamental processes involved in physiology and disease and can lead to the identification of drug targets.

Dessauer, a professor of integrative biology and pharmacology at the UTHealth Medical School, was one of 539 AAAS members awarded this honor in 2011 and will be recognized on Feb. 18 at the 2012 AAAS Annual Meeting in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada.

“She is regarded highly nationally and internationally for her work,” said John Hancock, Ph.D., chairman of the Department of Integrative Biology and Pharmacology and holder of the John S. Dunn Distinguished University Chair in Physiology and Medicine at the UTHealth Medical School.

Dessauer’s interest in how cells talk to each other dates back to her days as a postdoctoral fellow in the laboratory of Alfred Gilman, M.D., Ph.D., who shared the 1994 Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine for his part in work involving proteins (G proteins) that serve in the communication process. Gilman is a professor emeritus at The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

Dessauer and her colleagues believe this information could potentially be used to block signals tied to disease. Building on Gilman’s work, Dessauer was honored for her efforts to further the understanding of how G proteins impact a second messenger named cyclic AMP.

“In the heart, we are working to identify complexes that regulate cyclic AMP actions and to inhibit one of the proteins that makes cyclic AMP in an effort to address heart disease,” said Dessauer, noting that cyclic AMP plays a key role in functions ranging from control of heart rate and force of contraction to learning and memory.

According to Gilman, chief scientific officer of the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT), “The regulation of cyclic AMP synthesis by adenylyl cyclases is a very important and extremely complex subject, with many enzymes and other proteins involved. Carmen Dessauer kicked open the door on this subject when she worked in my lab, now several years ago. And she has continued to make outstanding contributions to our knowledge in this area. In addition to being a superb scientist, she is a fine person and a strong institutional citizen.”

Elected by their AAAS peers, fellows are recognized for efforts to advance science or its applications. Dessauer joins at least eight other AAAS fellows affiliated with UTHealth.

Dessauer received her doctorate at LSU and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

AAAS was founded in 1848 and includes 262 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of 1 million.

Rob Cahill
Media Contact: 713-500-3030