For more than 10 years, Dr. Lu Le had studied cells and genes, hoping to grasp the roots of cancer and further the seek for a cure. Instead, in his lab at UT Southwestern Medical Center, he discovered something unexpected – a chemical and biological process that could explain grey hair and bald heads in people.
Science typically works this way. A search in one direction results in an entirely different discovery in another. For Le, baldness and graying weren’t issues of his research. And yet, there they have been, gray and bald mice inside his lab. Le, associate professor in the department of dermatology with the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center. Now Le, who at forty six has a few flecks of gray in a full head of black hair, is hoping to create a topical compound or other remedy that would flip back the clock on thinning and graying hair.
There are not any guarantees; any treatment is likely to take years of cautious lab work. Le’s analysis had focused on how most cancers begins – specifically with tumors that grow on nerves in a disorder called neurofibromatosis. He and his staff would take away totally different proteins within the tumors to raised understand how they formed.
That’s when Le discovered the position a protein referred to as KROX20 performs not simply in nerve growth but in hair color and progress. The KROX20 protein turns on in pores and skin cells that grow to be shafts of hair. These cells then produce a protein called stem cell issue (SCF) that is crucial for hair coloration. When that SCF protein was deleted from mice in KROX20 cells, their hair turned grey and then white. And when the scientists deleted the KROX20 cells, the mice turned bald. But science requires results to be repeated. And that’s what Le has been doing since he made his discovery about two years in the past. The outcomes have been published in May in Genes & Development, a peer-reviewed scientific journal.
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The story instantly attracted tens of 1000’s of web page views and readers on the journal’s webpage and was picked up by information websites all over the world. Terri Grodzicker, editor of Genes & Development. Fellow scientists additionally commended the work of Le’s staff. Dr. Luis Garza, an affiliate professor of dermatology at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
For Le, the invention is the pinnacle of an unlikely career, one that may by no means have happened for a man who got here to America as a teenage refugee. Le was born in 1971 in Vietnam, near My Lai, three years after the notorious massacre of a whole bunch of civilians in that village by U.S. Le’s father had labored on America’s aspect during the battle. When it was over, Le had little choice but to depart his homeland.
He determined to flee, setting out as a teenager on a dangerous ocean journey on a tiny fishing boat propelled by a motorbike engine. Instead, he made it to a refugee camp in Thailand, then to the Philippines and at last to the home of family dwelling in Long Beach, Calif.
Le credit the work ethic he realized at a younger age to his success in science. He attended highschool from eight a.m. Three p.m. after which worked at McDonald’s from 5 p.m. With no buses operating that late, he needed to run home about 5 miles by way of dangerous neighborhoods.