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Prestigious Wilson Award Goes To Yale Cell Biologist Joel Rosenbaum

Joel Rosenbaum, professor in the Department of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology (MCDB) and faculty member at Yale since 1967, will be awarded// the prestigious 2006 E. B. Wilson Medal, the American Society for Cell Biology’s highest honor for scientific research in cell biology.

The medal is indeed a recognition of Rosenbaum’s contribution on the assembly, maintenance and function of fine, hair-like cell organelles, called cilia and flagella (interchangeable terms), which extend from the cell surface.

Recently, Rosenbaum and his students and colleagues have shown that the cilia are fundamental to the pathogenesis of one of the most prevalent of human diseases, PKD, polycystic kidney disease, forms of which can affect as many as 1 in 500 people.

Rosenbaum has produced much of his groundbreaking research by studying cilia/flagella in single celled protistans, principally the bi-flagellate alga, Chlamydomonas. Cilia are best studied in organisms like Chlamydomonas because their structure has been conserved even to humans, and they can be grown in quantity to isolate flagella in large amounts. Further, their cell division is easily synchronized and the genome sequence of Chlamydomonas and the flagellar “proteome,” or complete catalogue of proteins, has been published.

Using this organism, Rosenbaum designed systems to study flagellar growth and regeneration. In some of his initial studies, as a post doctoral fellow at the University of Chicago, Rosenbaum showed that flagella grew and elongated by adding on new subunits to their tips, distant from the cell body where the flagellar proteins are synthesized.

When listening to Rosenbaum present this “flagellar tip growth” story in the mid-1970s, former Yale Professor and Nobel laureate George Palade suggested that there “must be elevators in the flagella” carrying subunits from their site of synthesis in the cell body to the tip of the flagella where a
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