January 23, 2004

Respected scientist Kono dies

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Tetsuro Kono, Ph.D.

Respected scientist Kono dies

Tetsuro Kono, Ph.D., professor of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics, Emeritus, died Sunday from pancreatic cancer. He was 78.

Dr. Kono first came to Vanderbilt University as a postdoctoral fellow in 1960 and joined the faculty as assistant professor of Physiology in 1963. His research over the next 30 years focused on insulin action, laying important groundwork for what goes awry in diabetes and obesity.

Among his many contributions, Dr. Kono discovered that insulin action involves the movement of glucose transporter proteins from an inactive reservoir inside cells to their site of action at the cell surface. This finding, made simultaneously with Samuel Cushman of the National Institutes of Health in 1980, is widely recognized as one of the landmark discoveries in the field of insulin regulation of glucose transport, said Jackie D. Corbin, Ph.D., professor of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics.

“Dr. Kono was very well-known and well-respected around the world for his discoveries related to insulin action,” Corbin said. Corbin had the good fortune, he said, to have Dr. Kono return to bench research in his laboratory over the last several years. “He was great to have in the laboratory — very cheerful, practical and persistent. He was a terrific role model for the students. Everyone will miss him.”

In May 2002, Dr. Kono was inducted as one of the founding members of the Department of Molecular Physiology and Biophysics Circle of Distinguished Alumni. The “Circle” members were honored for their outstanding contributions to the advancement of scientific investigation, for their leadership, and for their scholarship.

Dr. Kono earned his Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of Tokyo. He completed postdoctoral training at Johns Hopkins and Vanderbilt Universities and was an Instructor of Agricultural Chemistry at the University of Tokyo before joining the Vanderbilt faculty.

Dr. Kono is survived by his wife, Seiko, daughter Michiko, and sons Masahiro and Kenji Kono.

A memorial service will be held Friday, Jan. 30, 2004 at 3:00 p.m. in Benton Chapel. In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that memorial contributions be made to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, Middle Tenn. Branch, 2200 Hillsboro Rd. Suite 410, Nashville, Tenn. 37212.