For immediate release
|Jenni Bullington, UTD (972) 883-4431 [email protected]|
Noted Sickle Cell Researcher to Join Texas Effort
Dr. Betty Pace to Develop Gene-Based Therapies in Search for Cure
RICHARDSON, Texas (Dec. 16, 2002) – The pioneering sickle cell disease research effort being conducted jointly by The University of Texas at Dallas (UTD) and The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas will get a boost in January when noted researcher Dr. Betty Pace joins the two schools.
Pace currently works at the University of South Alabama in Mobile, where she is an associate professor in the Department of Cell Biology and Neuroscience and associate director of the U.S.A. Comprehensive Sickle Cell Center. At UTD, she will serve as associate director of the university’s Sickle Cell Disease Research Center and an associate professor of molecular and cell biology. A medical doctor, Pace also will hold a clinical associate professor appointment at UT Southwestern, which, along with UTD, recently won a major federal grant to establish the first sickle cell center in the Southwest.
In mid-September, the two Dallas components of The University of Texas System announced they had been selected by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to establish one of 10 federally funded sickle cell research centers, which will form the first national clinical trials network for the disease. When funded next spring, the grant is expected to total almost $8 million.
Under the collaborative arrangement, basic scientific research on the disease will be carried out at both UTD and UT Southwestern, while clinical studies involving patients will be conducted by UT Southwestern, principally at Children’s Medical Center of Dallas.
“We are both delighted that Betty Pace is coming to the Dallas area and excited about how she will enhance the evolving relationship between UTD and UT Southwestern,” said Dr. Steven Goodman, director of the UTD Sickle Cell Disease Research Center and head of the university’s Department of Molecular and Cell Biology. “She has outstanding skills as both a scientist and a physician, enabling her to conduct basic research and apply the findings in a clinical setting – what we refer to as translational medicine, or ‘bench to bedside.’”
According to Goodman, Pace will head a team that will develop gene-based therapies as a possible cure for sickle cell disease – an approach that Goodman termed “very promising” in the fight against the inherited red blood cell disease, which strikes one in 500 African-Americans.
Sickle cell anemia is caused by a defect in the gene that controls the production of hemoglobin. Researchers like Pace are exploring whether increasing levels of fetal hemoglobin by gene-based therapy will cure the disease. Pace is studying the possibility of turning off the defective hemoglobin gene while reactivating another gene responsible for the production of fetal hemoglobin – a type of hemoglobin found in newborns that prevents the sickling of red blood cells.
The same techniques of manipulating genes may one day also prove beneficial to those suffering other diseases, such as HIV and Parkinson’s.
The existing treatment that is most effective in eliminating sickle cell disease – bone marrow transplant, which is normally done in children – can only be used in a small percentage of cases. Because the healthy marrow must normally come from a sibling with similar medical characteristics as the patient, only seven percent of children with the disease have suitable donors.
Pace earned an M.D. degree from the Medical College of Wisconsin and a B.S. degree from Marquette University. She completed an internship and residency in pediatrics at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, a fellowship in pediatric hematology and oncology at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center and a postdoctoral fellowship in medical genetics at the University of Washington.
Pace’s laboratory at the University of South Alabama has focused on developing novel therapies and testing new drugs to treat sickle cell disease. As a clinician, she served as the principal investigator, along with Dr. Goodman, for a clinical trial that provided “proof of concept” that N-acetylcysteine prevented “sickle pain” episodes and was a potential new therapy for the disease.
of Texas at Dallas, located at the convergence of Richardson, Plano
and Dallas in the heart of the complex of major multinational technology
corporations known as the Telecom Corridor, enrolls more than
13,000 students. The school’s freshman class traditionally stands
at the forefront of Texas state universities in terms of average SAT
scores. The university offers a broad assortment of bachelor’s, master’s
and doctoral degree programs. For additional information about UTD,
please visit the university’s web site at www.utdallas.edu.
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This page last updated December 16, 2002