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October 28, 2005
Contact: Diane Silver, senior editor, (785) 832-7363.

KU Chancellors Club honors KU Medical Center scientist Dale Abrahamson


LAWRENCE -- Dale R. Abrahamson, an internationally recognized researcher in kidney development and chair of the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology at the University of Kansas Medical Center, is the recipient of the 2005 Chancellors Club Research Award.

The Chancellors Club, established in 1977 by the Kansas University Endowment Association, is KU's major-donor organization. The $5,000 annual Chancellors Club Research Award honors a KU Medical Center researcher whose work has led to significant scientific discoveries. Candidates for the award are nominated by colleagues, students and alumni. Abrahamson receives the award tonight at the Club's 28th Annual Celebration at the Holiday Inn Holidome.

Abrahamson has devoted his research to studying normal and abnormal kidney development patterns, with the hope of one day providing insight into how to treat kidney disease. His love for research began when he was a boy, peering at specimens under his toy microscope.

" I was drawn to the kidney in particular because of its natural beauty under the microscope," he said. "Science is a combination of art and appreciation of form that then contributes to an understanding about function."

His initial research on the assembly of the kidney's glomerular basement membrane -- which filters blood and metabolic products -- piqued his curiosity about how blood vessels were formed in the kidney, prompting his second area of research.

" There's been a lot of excitement in cancer biology during the last 10 years on blood vessel development," he said. "If we can stop blood vessels from growing into cancerous tumors, we can halt the growth of tumors."

Abrahamson's research into this unexplored area has led to a major paradigm shift in the scientific community. "We discovered that the kidney has the ability to make its own blood vessels and does so during the embryonic stage," he said. "This came as a great surprise, because up until then, the evidence was that the blood vessels grew into the kidney from an external source. To the contrary, our findings showed that the kidney generates its own micro vessels."

To follow up on this finding, Abrahamson now is studying the signals that govern kidney vascular development. His research team is looking at what pathways the developing vessels follow in the filtration barriers.

In a letter of recommendation for the Chancellors Club award, Dr. Charles E. Alpers, head of renal pathology at the University of Washington Medical Center, wrote: "For over 20 years, Dale has been a major figure in the developmental biology community. His work in defining the origins of the renal vasculature in developing kidneys … was absolutely groundbreaking when first presented, and its accuracy has stood the test of time."

Abrahamson has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health since 1980 and is a principal investigator for NIH research. In addition, he has served as the president of the Histochemical Society, as a fellow of the American Heart Association and on the editorial boards of three professional journals. He has published more than 100 original research articles in leading journals and has made 82 extramural formal presentations before audiences in the United States and abroad.

In 1986, Abrahamson received the prestigious Established Investigator Award from the American Heart Association. In 1993, he won the MERIT Award from the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases, which guarantees full support of research for 10 years.

Abrahamson holds two bachelor's degrees, one from the University of Virginia and another from George Mason University. After receiving a doctorate from the University of Virginia in 1981, he was a research fellow in the Department of Medicine at Harvard Medical School. He then joined the faculty at the University of Alabama at Birmingham in 1983. He became of member of the KU faculty in 1998 and is the associate director of the Kidney Institute. He has mentored six graduate students and four post-doctoral trainees.

KU Endowment is an independent, nonprofit corporation serving as the official fund-raising and fund-management organization for the University of Kansas. Founded in 1891, KU Endowment is the first foundation of its kind at a U.S. public university and one of the largest.

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