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La Jolla Institute scientist Klaus Ley receives Malpighi award

Mon, 10/25/2010 - 9:37am
EurekAlert

SAN DIEGO (October 25, 2010) Klaus Ley, M.D, a scientist at the La Jolla Institute for Allergy & Immunology, was recently awarded the prestigious Malpighi Medal at the World Congress for Microcirculation in Paris, France. A lifetime achievement award presented by the European Society for Microcirculation, Dr. Ley received the honor in recognition of his pioneering endeavors in vascular immunology, a scientific discipline that he helped to pioneer, which looks at novel immune-based approaches to combating heart disease. He is only the 17th recipient of the biennial award worldwide.

Mitchell Kronenberg, Ph.D., La Jolla Institute president & chief scientific officer, said the award comes as no surprise. "Dr. Ley is undeniably one of the top researchers in the world in vascular immunology," he said. "His contributions to better understanding of inflammation's critical role in heart disease have been vast and have led to new diagnostics and potential treatments for arterial diseases."

In announcing the award, the European Society for Microcirculation noted that it "honors researchers who are active in the field and stand out through their publications and scientific contributions, service to the entire field of microcirculatory and vascular biology research, and by their promotion of younger scientists." Dr. Ley was also asked to present the Malpighi lecture during the World Congress as part of the award.

Dr. Ley, who heads the La Jolla Institute's Division of Inflammation Biology, said he was honored to receive the Malpighi award. "It was really exciting to join this group of 17 highly respected scientists."

Dr. Ley's most significant discoveries over the years, related to heart disease, were in three major scientific areas: molecular mechanisms, biomechanics and methods development. In molecular mechanisms, Dr. Ley was one of the early discoverers of the "leukocyte adhesion cascade," a sequence of molecular events in the blood vessels that are key to triggering inflammation. Inflammation, as shown by Dr. Ley and other researchers, is a major contributor to plaque buildup in heart disease and other conditions. Thanks to the discovery of the adhesion cascade, a therapy for peripheral artery disease is now in clinical trials. The therapy seeks to significantly reduce inflammation, and the resulting arterial plaque buildup, by blocking one or more steps in the adhesion cascade.

In the area of biomechanics, Dr. Ley's work resulted in the development of a series of molecular contrast agents for use in ultrasound imaging that enables better and more comprehensive pictures for diagnostic purposes. With these images, physicians will be able to see cancerous cells, plaque formation, inflammation and other conditions more clearly and earlier on in their development, thus enabling earlier therapeutic treatments.

Regarding his methods work, Dr. Ley recently developed "dynamic footprinting," which marks a significant contribution to methods work in the vascular immunology field. The footprinting enables scientists to study neutrophil adhesion, a molecular process important in fighting bacterial infections, in unprecedented detail. As part of creating the dynamic footprinting method, Dr. Ley collaborated with Dr. Alex Groisman at UCSD to develop a microfluidic flow chamber 10,000 times smaller than the existing version. Using this flow chamber, scientists can see the surface structures and molecules involved in neutrophil adhesion with exceptional clarity. "The ability to understand what is actually occurring is significantly enhanced."

A native of Germany, Dr. Ley joined the La Jolla Institute in 2007 as Head of the Division of Inflammation Biology. Previously, he was director of the Robert M. Berne Cardiovascular Research Center at the University of Virginia. He has received many major awards, including the prestigious Marie T. Bonazinga Research Award, the highest honor presented by the Society for Leukocyte Biology. Dr. Ley holds an M.D. from the Julius-Maximilians-Universität inWürzburg, Germany and completed postdoctoral training in physiology and biomedical engineering in Berlin and at UC San Diego. He has published more than 200 scientific papers and is co-founder of Targeson, a biotech company developing contrast agents for molecular imaging.

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