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Michael Menaker Named By Governor As Outstanding Scientist Of 2003

February 11, 2003-- Gov. Mark R. Warner and Science Museum of Virginia Director Dr. Walter R.T. Witschey yesterday announced that Michael Menaker, Commonwealth Professor of Biology, is one of eight Outstanding Scientists and Industrialists of 2003. The awardees include six university scientists and two corporate chief executive officers. They will be introduced to the General Assembly on Feb. 18 and receive their awards at a banquet at the Science Museum in Richmond on April 1.

"These recipients are at the cutting edge of their fields," said Gov. Warner. "Their creativity, contributions, and dedication are aimed at making life - in Virginia and beyond - better for us all."

Menaker's research focuses on circadian clocks - the internal timers that regulate rhythmic behaviors and functions of organs. Menaker’s laboratory has provided the best evidence that a specific part of the brain is the “master clock” regulating the activity-rest cycle in mammals, and that this clock is synchronized to day and night by special photoreceptors (light sensing cells) in the eyes that are not used for image formation. These cells have recently been identified by other laboratories as a completely novel set of photoreceptors in the retina that are likely to be important to normal synchrony of humans.

Menaker’s lab has discovered circadian clocks in most peripheral organs, such as the lung and liver, and are investigating the way these clocks interact with the master clock in the brain and with the environment to control organ function.

Research in biological timing has implications for many areas of human life, from jet lag to shift work. A better understanding of the internal clock could reduce accidents due to fatigue. Researchers also are investigating ways to deliver drug treatments for cancer and other diseases, timed to the peak rhythms of body clocks. This new area, chronopharmacology, holds promise for more effective treatment of emotional disorders, hypertension, cancer and insomnia.

For more on Menaker’s research, check the following Web links:

http://www.virginia.edu/insideuva/2002/11/bio_timing.html
http://www.virginia.edu/insideuva/2002/25/master_clock.html
http://www.virginia.edu/insideuva/2001/04/jetlag.html
http://www.virginia.edu/insideuva/2000/16/jetlag.html

Contact: Fariss Samarrai, (434) 924-3778

FOR ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Contact the Office of University Relations at (434) 924-7116. Television reporters should contact the TV News Office at (434) 924-7550.

SOURCE: U.Va. News Services

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Last Modified: Tuesday, 11-Feb-2003 15:43:39 EST
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