Renowned diabetes researcher Fumihiko Urano, MD, PhD, is the new Samuel E. Schechter Professor of Medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.
Urano’s research involves locating biomarkers that may lead to more effective treatments, or even a cure, for juvenile-onset diabetes, including the very severe form of the disorder known as Wolfram syndrome.
Urano came to Washington University in 2012, joining the faculty as an associate professor of medicine in the Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism and Lipid Research. The first Schechter Professor, Gustav Schonfeld, MD, was known internationally for his expertise in lipid metabolism. Urano also holds a joint faculty appointment in the Department of Pathology and Immunology.The Schechter Professorship was established in 2002 by Samuel E. Schechter, MD, a 1941 graduate of the School of Medicine. Schonfeld, whose leadership at the university included service as head of the Department of Medicine from 1996 to 1999, held the professorship until his death in 2011.
Urano’s laboratory uses a variety of techniques to study human diseases caused by a type of cellular dysfunction known as endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress. ER stress plays a role in chronic diseases, including diabetes and neurodegeneration. If ER stress cannot be resolved, cells self-destruct. In Wolfram syndrome and diabetes, dysfunction within insulin-secreting cells causes ER stress, which in turn contributes to local inflammation and cell death.
“I’m honored to have been chosen as the Schechter professor,” said Urano. “Dr. Schechter made enormous contributions to support research at Washington University, particularly Dr. Schonfeld’s pioneering work in lipid metabolism. I hope to carry on in both the footsteps of Dr. Schonfeld and in those of my friend, Dr. Alan Permutt, with whom I collaborated for many, many years in his work on Wolfram syndrome.”
Urano earned a medical degree in 1994 and a doctorate in pathology in 1998 at Keio University School of Medicine in Tokyo. Following a residency in anatomic pathology and a clinical and research training program in pediatric pathology and genetics, Urano completed a research fellowship in the laboratory of David Ron, MD, at New York University Medical Center, where he studied molecular endocrinology and endoplasmic reticulum biology. In 2002, he joined the faculty of the University of Massachusetts Medical School and served as an executive committee member of its diabetes research center until he joined the Washington University faculty.
In 1996, he received the Pediatric Cancer Foundation Award for the discovery of a novel diagnostic genetic test for Ewing sarcoma. He also received the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Innovation Award in 2004, the Worcester Foundation Award in 2005 and the Outstanding Faculty Mentor Award from the University of Massachusetts in 2007.
He was elected to the American Society for Clinical Investigation in 2011, and Urano has been an adjunct pediatric pathologist and clinical investigator at the National Center for Child Health and Development in Tokyo since 2010.
The featured article was originally publsihed at Washington University’s Newsroom: Urano named Schechter Professor of Medicine