In Memoriam: Dr. Yiu Kee Ho, molecular genetics researcher

By Deborah Wormser

Dr. Yiu Kee (Y.K.) Ho, Assistant Professor of Molecular Genetics who co-authored more than two dozen studies with Nobel Laureates Drs. Michael S. Brown and Joseph L. Goldstein – died Dec. 5 following a brief illness. He was 72.

Dr. Yiu Kee Ho

Dr. Ho started his career at UT Southwestern Medical Center as the first postdoctoral student in the Brown and Goldstein laboratory. There, he helped elucidate the workings of the low-density lipoprotein (LDL) receptor that the two senior researchers had discovered, and was lead author on three studies he co-authored with them between 1976 and 1978.

During nearly four decades at UT Southwestern, he was widely known as a caring colleague and as a “go-to” resource in Molecular Genetics if a researcher had a question about a past study. He usually could tell how the experiment was done, explain results and direct the questioner to the notebook documenting the work, lab members recalled.

“Y.K. was the first in a long chain of postdoctoral fellows and students who have worked with Mike and me over the last four decades. His death creates an irreplaceable break in the chain,” Dr. Goldstein said. “Y.K. will be sorely missed by everyone – technicians, secretaries, scientists in training – who has worked in the Department of Molecular Genetics.

 “Y.K and his wife, Joanna, were the welcoming committee who taught each new foreign postdoc how to live in the U.S.  Y.K. was the glue that held our lab together for nearly 40 years.  Whenever a former postdoctoral fellow or student returned for a visit, the first person he or she wanted to see is Y.K. We miss him.”

In the early 1970s, Dr. Brown, now Director of the Erik Jonsson Center for Research in Molecular Genetics and Human Disease, and Dr. Goldstein, Chairman of Molecular Genetics, discovered the  LDL receptor, which controls the level of cholesterol in blood and in cells. Their pioneering work, which paved the way for the development of the statin class of cholesterol-lowering drugs, has received numerous awards, including the National Medal of Science (1988), the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (1985), and the Albert Lasker Basic Medical Research Award (1985).

Dr. Ho is survived by his wife; a son, Jeffrey, who lives in London, England, with his wife, Pamela Torres, and son, Mateus Ho; and a daughter, Yolanda, who lives in Seattle.

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Dr. Brown holds the W.A. (Monty) Moncrief Distinguished Chair in Cholesterol and Arteriosclerosis Research and the Paul J. Thomas Chair in Medicine, and is a Regental Professor.

Dr. Goldstein holds the Julie and Louis A. Beecherl Jr. Distinguished Chair in Biomedical Science and the Paul J. Thomas Chair in Medicine, and is a Regental Professor.

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