JHMI Office of Communications and Public Affairs

May 27, 2003

MEDIA CONTACT: Joanna Downer
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Three Johns Hopkins Biomedical Researchers Named to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Three biomedical researchers at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, an international honorary society founded in 1780. Two additional members of the Johns Hopkins community also were elected.

Carol Greider, Ph.D., Philip Beachy, Ph.D., and Peter Agre, M.D., are now fellows of the academy. The three also are members of the National Academy of Sciences. William Brody, M.D., president of The Johns Hopkins University, and astronomer Alexander Szalay, Ph.D., of the university also were elected as fellows of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Greider, professor and acting director of molecular biology and genetics at Hopkins, focuses her research on telomerase, an enzyme that rebuilds the repetitive ends of chromosomes. She discovered the enzyme in 1984 as a graduate student at the University of California at Berkeley and continues to investigate the fundamental biology of telomerase and role of the length of the chromosome ends -- telomeres-- in cancer cells. Short telomeres normally tell a cell to die, but cancer cells use telomerase to keep their telomeres long and death at arms length.

Beachy, professor of molecular biology and genetics, studies an important signaling molecule called Hedgehog that he and his colleagues isolated and the proteins involved in sensing and interpreting its message. Hedgehog, so named because of the clumpy pattern of bristles formed in its absence in fruit flies, is crucial for proper embryonic development in many organisms, including humans. Hedgehog seems to play a major role in the deadly childhood brain cancer known as medulloblastoma and in some other cancers and birth defects.

Agre, professor of biological chemistry and of medicine, and a team of young scientists discovered a class of water-transporting molecules known as aquaporins that regulate water infiltration into the brain, lung, kidney and other tissues. In the brain, one type of aquaporin seems to make up an important part of the blood-brain barrier and also plays a role in swelling of the brain due to disease or trauma, Agre's lab discovered. In the lung, another aquaporin helps maintain an appropriate water balance between lung tissue and the blood.

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences is composed of the world's leading scientists, scholars, artists, business people and public leaders. The academy has a current membership of 3,700 American fellows and 600 foreign honorary members. This year, academy members elected 187 new fellows and 29 new foreign honorary members

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