Scientific American's List Recognizes Leading Science and Technology contributions from many fields
UCLA's Desmond J. Smith, Ph.D., (Malibu resident) has been named by Scientific American magazine as one of the "Scientific American 50" - the noted publication's sixth annual list recognizing research, business and policy contributions worldwide to science and technology from the past year that have exceptional potential to improve society. The "Scientific American 50" appears in the magazine's January 2008 issue.
Smith was selected in neurological diagnostics - along with his colleague Richard D. Smith from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in Washington -- for creating "a complex system for analyzing proteins that combines advanced instrumentation with sophisticated image processing," the magazine states.
Due to the molecular complexity of the brain, it's a major challenge to study - about a third of the mammalian genome appears to be dedicated exclusively to brain function. The study of proteins, called proteomics, can offer a greater understanding of the biological function of an organism since thousands of proteins perform the work in cells.
The team used their new technique to inspect one-millimeter cubes or "voxels" of brain tissue from two normal mice and determined an abundance of over 1,000 proteins. Current imaging techniques can identify only one or a few proteins at a time. With the ability to reveal a large number of proteins at once, the method may provide new insight into the relationships between proteins and biological processes.
"Our next step is to use this methodology to compare normal and diseased brain tissue, which may help pinpoint new treatment targets for neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's or Parkinson's," said UCLA's Smith, associate professor of molecular and medical pharmacology at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.
According to UCLA's Smith, the technique may allow researchers to assess a wide range of molecular differences between normal and diseased brains, with defects in motor skills or with even more complex abnormalities such as dementia.
UCLA's Smith has received a number of research awards including: the Merck Genome Research Institute Award, a NARSAD Young Investigator Award, and an Alzheimer's Association Award.
Smith obtained his first degree in physics and a medical degree from Oxford University, England. He also received a doctorate in molecular biology from Cambridge University, England. Smith completed his postdoctoral training at Harvard University and at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He joined the UCLA faculty in 1997.