Vanderbilt Professor Earns Prize for Work on Alport-Linked Collagen 4

Vanderbilt Professor Earns Prize for Work on Alport-Linked Collagen 4
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Billy Hudson, PhD, a researcher focusing on the Alport syndrome-associated collagen 4, has been awarded the 2018 Distinguished Investigator Prize by the International Society for Matrix Biology.

The prize will be presented at the American Society for Matrix Biology Biennial Meeting in Las Vegas October 2018.

Hudson led efforts that culminated in the discovery that the development of collagen 4 is a key evolutionary step that allowed organisms to move from single cells to more complex multicellular organisms.

This is because collagen 4 provides the features necessary for the architecture of epithelial cells — a basement membrane upon which polarized epithelial cells are attached. Epithelial cells are those covering surfaces, both inside and outside the body.

This discovery led to a better understanding of Alport syndrome, as well as another kidney disease called Goodpasture’s disease.

Alport syndrome is caused by genetic mutations in three genes that make parts of the collagen 4 chain — COL4A3, COL4A5, and COL4A4. When collagen 4 is not working properly, the kidney basement membrane becomes increasingly damaged over time. The damage causes the kidneys to lose their ability to filter urine from the blood, causing leakage of blood and proteins.

But collagen 4 also is found in other organs, and people with Alport syndrome often are affected by hearing or visual loss.

“I am deeply honored to receive this prestigious award and will accept it on behalf of my students, fellows, collaborators, and Aspirnauts,” said Hudson, who is the Elliott V. Newman Professor of Medicine at Vanderbilt University,  in a press release. Hudson also is director of the Center for Matrix Biology.

Hudson, who also is a professor of biochemistry, cell and developmental biology, and pathology, microbiology, and immunology, has contributed to more than 225 scientific publications as well as 30 patents. He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, which is the world’s largest scientific society.

The prize, however, also acknowledges Hudson’s engagement in education. Together with his wife — Julie Hudson, MD, who is vice president for Medical Center Relations at Vanderbilt — he established the Aspirnaut STEM Pipeline Program.

The program offers summer internships for high school, undergraduate and graduate students, and video-based labs for rural schools. The program started as a pilot project to offer online learning on the school bus for children in rural Arkansas. However, it continues to innovate cost-effective methods for rural schools to improve the mathematics and science achievements of their students.

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