Edith and Peter O’Donnell Awards: Lora Hooper, Ph.D. (Medicine, 2013)

The Academy of Medicine, Engineering & Science of Texas (TAMEST) recognized UT Southwestern Medical Center’s Drs. Lora Hooper and Youxing Jiang in 2013 as two of the state’s top rising stars in research.

Dr. Hooper, Associate Professor of Immunology and Microbiology, and Dr. Jiang, Professor of Physiology, received Edith and Peter O’Donnell Awards from the academy at its annual conference. Each year, the awards honor three outstanding, up-and-coming researchers in science, medicine, and engineering and their work. Each O’Donnell Award consists of a $25,000 honorarium, a citation and an inscribed statue.

The 2013 O’Donnell Award in Medicine honors Dr. Hooper for her discovery of immune mechanisms that promote host-bacterial interactions. These discoveries in part explain how beneficial bacteria can safely exist in the intestinal tract and may ultimately reveal what to do when illness-causing bacteria predominate.

Much of Dr. Hooper’s research focuses on the battles that take place, or don’t, in a sort of “demilitarized zone” in the intestine. That zone is a 50-micron-wide area – about half the width of a human hair – between the intestinal wall and the normally good, or commensal, bacteria that live in the gut. Under normal conditions, these bacteria aid in digestion and the delivery of nutrients from the food we eat without damaging the delicate intestinal lining. When something goes wrong with this arrangement the bacteria are able to invade the intestinal wall and can cause inflammatory bowel disorders.

The video is courtesy of The Academy of Medicine, Engineering & Science of Texas (TAMEST).