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March 1, 2022

Two UVA Discoveries Up for Year’s Biggest Biomedical Advance

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Not one but two School of Medicine discoveries are being featured in the STAT health news site’s annual bracket tournament of 2021’s biggest biomedical advances. It’s the fourth year in a row that a UVA Health discovery has been recognized as one of the year’s most significant.

UVA earned two of only 64 slots in this year’s “STAT Madness,” which is like the scientific version of the NCAA basketball tournament. Voting is open to the public and begins today – you can do so here: New rounds will open weekly, with winners advancing until a final victor is determined. Voters can return to back their favorites in each round.

UVA’s contenders come from Maria Luisa S. Sequeira-Lopez, MD, and her collaborator Ariel Gomez, MD, and from Christine and Bernard Thisse, both PhDs. Sequeira-Lopez and Gomez discovered the missing link in our bodies’ blood pressure controls – natural barometers called “baroreceptors” in kidney cells – that scientists had been seeking for more than 60 years. The finding could lead to new treatments for high blood pressure. 

The Thisses, meanwhile, made a major breakthrough in scientists’ efforts to use stem cells to mimic the natural development of mammals. The finding will help researchers understand mammalian development, battle diseases, create new drugs and, eventually, grow tissues and organs for people in need of transplants.

“It is wonderful to see STAT once again recognize the exceptional research underway at the UVA School of Medicine,” said K. Craig Kent, MD, chief executive officer of UVA Health. “We are so proud of our researchers and what they are accomplishing. These are both important findings, with real potential to improve human health.” 

Sadly, Bernard Thisse died in December, but the recognition of his research’s importance by the editors of STAT is a great tribute to his work and its legacy, said Melina Kibbe, MD, dean of the UVA School of Medicine. 

“I am so pleased to see the world take notice of the important work conducted by Dr. Sequeira-Lopez, Dr. Gomez and the Thisses,” she said. “We were very sad to lose Bernard Thisse and his brilliant mind, but we look forward to the future work from both labs.”

UVA’s contender in last year’s STAT Madness, the discovery of the oncogene responsible for deadly glioblastoma by Hui Li, PhD, made it all the way to the Final Four.

To keep up with the latest medical research news from UVA, subscribe to the Making of Medicine blog.

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