December 12, 1997

Hardman honored with named chair at Bass Lectureship

Hardman honored with named chair at Bass Lectureship

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Joel Hardman, Ph.D. (left) chats with Dr. Jeffery Friedman, the featured speaker at this year's Allan D. Bass Lectureship. Photo by Donna Jones Bailey

A standing-room-only crowd packed Light Hall for last week's 1997 Allan D. Bass Lectureship, where the latest research on the study of body fat regulation was presented and a new named chair in Pharmacology was unveiled.

The annual lectureship honors Dr. Allan D. Bass, professor and chair of Pharmacology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center from 1953 until 1973.

"Dr. Bass understood the importance ‹ before its time ‹ of linking molecules to human beings in terms of research and he is responsible for creating VUMC's Pharmacology department as an internationally known center for pharmacology," said Lee Limbird, Ph.D., professor and chair of Pharmacology.

At the lecture, Dr. Harry R. Jacobson, Vice Chancellor for Health Affairs, announced a new chair at Vanderbilt, the Joel G. Hardman Chair in Pharmacology, named in honor of Hardman, former chair of the department and currently associate vice chancellor for Health Affairs.

"This honor reflects the work Joel has done for the medical center in all aspects of our mission: patient care, research, and education. There is no person who better deserves this honor," said Jacobson.

The Joel G. Hardman Chair in Pharmacology is slated to be filled sometime during the next year.

Hardman was also honored by the Pharmacology graduate students with an annual forum in his name. The yearly Joel G. Hardman Student Invited Pharmacology Forum will feature prominent speakers who are chosen by the graduate students.

"Because of his career-long interest in the training of young scientists and the development of their critical thinking skills, and high ethical standards, the graduate students in pharmacology chose to honor Joel Hardman with this lecture bearing his name," said Limbird.

The featured speaker at this year's Bass lecture was Dr. Jeffrey M. Friedman, professor and investigator at Howard Hughes Medical Institute at Rockefeller University. He discussed his work with the gene product leptin, which he identified in 1996 as one of the hormones involved in body fat regulation and metabolism.

Friedman has a long-standing interest in the physiological regulation of body weight and has achieved an international reputation for his research on "obesity" genes and the molecular cloning of leptin and its receptors. Friedman and other researchers have shown that the obesity gene product known as leptin can dramatically reduce body fat and increase the rate of metabolism in obese mice.

"When certain mice are infused with leptin, body fat is lost without the loss of muscle mass. We now know that a good understanding of the leptin pathway could have profound effects on weight control," said Friedman.

Leptin impacts weight loss by a process called a feedback loop. In short, leptin is secreted by adipose (fat) tissue and then taken up by receptors in the hypothalamus. As the hypothalamus receives leptin, it secretes hormones which affect food intake and metabolism.

In obese mice populations, leptin profoundly impacts weight loss. Research is currently being conducted into the possible impacts of leptin on human weight control.

According to Limbird, Friedman's studies on the physiological response to long-term peripheral and central leptin infusion in lean and obese mice are setting the stage for an entirely new therapeutic strategy in addressing human obesity.

"Most major pharmaceutical companies have drug development programs targeted at leptin receptors in response to Friedman's ground-breaking discoveries," she said.