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Environmental Factor, August 2012

NTP fellow wins 1st Place Young Investigator Award

By Eddy Ball

Xiaohua Gao, M.D., Ph.D.

“I’m very lucky to be working here,” Gao said. “I feel that Dr. Dixon’s mentoring has contributed greatly to advancing my career as a physician scientist specializing in toxicologic pathology.” (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

Darlene Dixon, D.V.M., Ph.D.

After completing her doctor of veterinary medicine and doctor of philosophy degrees, Dixon served as a postdoctoral fellow at The Rockefeller University before joining NIEHS in 1987. She earned certification as a Diplomate in the American College of Veterinary Pathologists in 1987. (Photo courtesy of Steve McCaw)

NTP visiting fellow Xiaohua Gao, M.D., Ph.D., was the winner of the 1st Place Young Investigator Award for research presented at the Society of Toxicologic Pathology (STP) 31st Annual Symposium (http://toxpath.org/AM2012/)  June 24-28 in Boston. Her abstract, titled “Effects of Cadmium on Receptor Tyrosine Kinase (RTK) Phosphorylation, MAPK Activation, and Estrogen Receptor (ER) Alpha and Beta Binding In Vitro,” was selected from a pool of all the young investigator submissions for the meeting.

Gao is a member of the Molecular Pathogenesis Group headed by Darlene Dixon, D.V.M., Ph.D., of the NTP Laboratory. A physician with a Ph.D. in toxicology, now in the fourth year of her fellowship, Gao has successfully applied her knowledge of medicine and toxicology to understanding the molecular basis of disease and deciphering the pathogenesis of changes induced by environmental toxicants. In addition to her STP award, Gao has been the first author on two papers (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=Gao%20X%20and%20Dixon%20D)  published by the group in peer-reviewed journals, as well as another one now under review, and a co-author on four others.

“I’m very proud of Dr. Gao’s accomplishment in winning this award,” Dixon said. “I think it acknowledges Xiaohua’s outstanding work as a research toxicologist in training and reflects very favorably on the quality of the NTP postdoctoral training programs.” (http://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/Ntp/PressCtr/Brochures/PostdocTraining2012.pdf) 

Posters were evaluated and scored for experimental design, clarity, data interpretation, quality of visual aids, and impact of research by a panel of international investigators from the STP Career Development and Outreach Committee, as well as the Annual Symposium Poster Committee. Gao was also evaluated and scored for her presentation of the data.

The award-winning research is part of work in the Dixon group on understanding the pathogenesis of toxicant-induced changes in the uterus and the role of toxicants in uterine disease. In the research presented at the STP, Gao proposed a non-classical estrogen receptor binding mechanism for cadmium-induced proliferative changes in uterine fibroid cells. Gao and Dixon plan to conduct additional studies to support their hypothesis.

NIEHS is one of several sponsors of the STP Annual Symposium, which also features a special premeeting, full-day NTP Symposium (http://toxpath.org/AM2012/AM12_NTP_Agenda.pdf)  each year, featuring a number of NTP scientists addressing issues of interpretation in pathology.




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