Green Center joins OB-GYN department

Kraus named as vice chairman to lead initiatives in basic science in reproductive biology

By Aline McKenzie / September 2010

The Cecil H. and Ida Green Center for Reproductive Biology Sciences has started moving in a new direction — literally.

The center is not only getting a new director, Dr. W. Lee Kraus; it is returning to the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, where the seventh floor of the Harry S. Moss Clinical Science Building is being renovated into 10,000 square feet of state-of-the-art laboratory space.

Dr. W. Lee Kraus

Dr. Kraus, formerly professor of molecular biology and genetics at Cornell University and professor of pharmacology at Weill Cornell Medical College, became the center’s new director on July 15. He will also serve as vice chairman for basic science for the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology and will hold the Cecil H. and Ida Green Distinguished Chair in Reproductive Biology Sciences.

“UT Southwestern and the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology are truly fortunate to have recruited such an outstanding scientist and leader to our campus,” said Dr. Steven Bloom, chairman of obstetrics and gynecology.  “We are all extremely excited about the opportunity to enhance our basic science research program and to seek new synergies with our clinical research efforts through the activities of the Green Center.”

Dr. Kraus said that the faculty in the Green Center will employ a wide variety of classical approaches for studying reproduction, including molecular, cellular and physiological techniques, but will also emphasize cutting-edge techniques in genomics, bioinformatics and computational biology.

“There will be research on fertilization, stem cells, fetal development, pregnancy and birth,” Dr. Kraus said. “But the research will also include broader aspects of related physiology and pathology that affect reproduction, including endocrinology, immunology metabolism and cancer.”

Five new junior faculty members will be hired to accompany the approximately 20 current UT Southwestern faculty members who will become members of the center.  The research programs of the new hires will be focused on signaling, gene regulation, chromatin structure, epigenetics and other aspects of nuclear function, Dr. Kraus said.

The Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology’s Center for Reproductive Biology Sciences was renamed in honor of Cecil and Ida Green in 1974 when the couple endowed a distinguished chair for the center director, Dr. Paul MacDonald. Under Dr. MacDonald’s leadership, the Green Center enjoyed an international reputation for conducting basic research aimed at understanding the underlying events that cause a pregnant woman to go into labor as well as problems that may adversely affect a woman’s reproductive health.  Under David L. Garbers, Ph.D., who was director from 1999 – 2006, the Green Center moved to the Department of Pharmacology and expanded its research portfolio to include male reproductive physiology. The center has not had a director since Dr. Garber’s death in 2006.

Dr. Kraus’ research focuses on signaling and gene regulation in a cell’s nucleus by small molecules, including the steroid hormone estrogen. “We are interested in understanding how these fundamental processes might occur differently in cells of the reproductive tract than, say, cells of the nervous system, and how they go awry in disease states,” he said.