Hanson receives one of the first Keck Foundation awards for distinguished young scholars in medical research

St. Louis-- Phyllis I. Hanson, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of cell biology and physiology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, is among five first-time recipients of the Distinguished Young Scholar in Medical Research Award from the Los Angeles-based W. M. Keck Foundation. Hanson was picked from among 10 finalists for the award.

The Young Scholars program will provide Hanson with $1 million in research support over five years. The program was created to promote the development of young scientists who exhibit extraordinary promise in biomedical research and academic leadership.

William A. Peck, M.D., executive vice chancellor for medical affairs and dean of the School of Medicine, says, "Phyllis Hanson's powerful grasp of research, her scientific dedication and her sense of academic excellence have contributed greatly to the field of neurobiology. We are thrilled to have the W. M. Keck Foundation recognize one of the medical school's and the nation's outstanding young scientists as a future leader in this field."

Hanson studies the molecular machinery that neurons use to communicate. The machinery permits the release of sacs of chemical signals so one neuron can talk with neighboring neurons. Hanson will determine how membrane-associated proteins direct these sacs to release their cargo and then to reform. The work may one day suggest treatments for some neuromuscular, neurologic and psychiatric disorders that result from faulty communication between neurons.

Using biochemical and imaging techniques, Hanson will visualize how proteins called SNAREs tether a storage sac to the inner face of the membrane that forms a neuron's surface. During this process, one type of SNARE jutting from a sac's surface interacts with similar tethering proteins at the cell's surface. When the SNAREs entwine, the sac can momentarily fuse with the surface membrane to dump the chemical cargo. These

Contact: Barbra Rodriguez
Washington University School of Medicine

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