April 29, 2010

Cone elected to National Academy of Sciences

Roger Cone Roger Cone, chair of molecular physiology and biophysics (Vanderbilt University)

Cone elected to National Academy of Sciences

Roger Cone, Ph.D.

Roger Cone, Ph.D.

Membership in the NAS is one of the highest honors given to a scientist or engineer in the United States. Cone will be formally inducted into the Academy next April during its 148th annual meeting in Washington, D.C.

“I am personally honored, and pleased for Vanderbilt and my research field as well,” said Cone, professor and chair of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics. “There are only a few scientists in the Academy who work on obesity. It’s great that the Academy is now recognizing that obesity is a major problem and an important area of research.”

Cone is renowned for his research aimed at understanding how the central nervous system regulates energy stores – both the normal processes and the pathophysiological mechanisms that lead to obesity, metabolic syndrome, disease wasting, anorexia nervosa and other eating disorders.

A core theme of Cone’s research is the role of melanocortin peptides and receptors in these, and other physiological processes. His work has shown that melanocortin-containing circuits in the central nervous system are responsible for integrating information about energy intake and expenditure to keep body weight constant. The understanding of how the hormone leptin acts on these circuits explains why dieters usually gain back the weight they have lost. Based on his findings, defective melanocortin signaling in the central nervous system has been identified as the most common cause of severe early-onset obesity in humans.

“We are tremendously proud that Roger’s work has been recognized with membership in the National Academy of Sciences,” said Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D., vice chancellor for Health Affairs and dean of the School of Medicine. “This is a great honor for Roger, and it highlights the quality of the faculty at Vanderbilt.”

Cone is one of 72 new members and 18 foreign associates elected this week. He becomes the fifth Vanderbilt faculty member currently in the NAS. He joins Stanley Cohen, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry, emeritus, John Exton, M.D., Ph.D., professor of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, Jon Kaas, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Psychology, and Charles “Rollo” Park, M.D., professor of Physiology, emeritus.

The NAS is a private organization of scientists and engineers dedicated to the furtherance of science and its use for the general welfare. It was established in 1863 by a congressional act of incorporation signed by Abraham Lincoln that calls on the Academy to act as an official adviser to the federal government, upon request, in any matter of science or technology.

There are currently about 2,100 active NAS members. NAS’s renowned members have included Albert Einstein, Robert Oppenheimer, Thomas Edison, Orville Wright, and Alexander Graham Bell. More than 180 living Academy members have won Nobel Prizes.