Helen H. Hobbs, MD
Genetics of Complex Diseases:
Tuesday, February 5, 12 Noon
Helen H. Hobbs, MD, professor of internal medicine and of molecular genetics at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator, will be the first speaker in the 2013 Senior Vice Chancellor’s Laureate Lecture Series, a yearlong program highlighting some of the top biomedical researchers in their fields. Dr. Hobbs’ lecture, “Genetics of Complex Diseases: Getting to the Heart of the Matter,” will take place at noon on Tuesday, February 5, in Lecture Room 6, Scaife Hall.
Dr. Hobbs’ research is focused on defining genetic factors that influence susceptibility to metabolic disorders and heart disease. Her work has provided insights into cholesterol and fat metabolism and identified new drug targets for the prevention of atherosclerotic heart disease.
Dr. Hobbs graduated from Stanford University with BA in human biology and earned her MD at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. She was chief resident at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. While there, she also completed a postdoctoral fellowship in endocrinology in the laboratory of Michael Brown and Joseph Goldstein, who later won a Nobel Prize for discovering the cell-surface receptor for LDL cholesterol and demonstrating its role in cholesterol metabolism.
Since setting up her own laboratory at UT Southwestern in the late 1980s, Dr. Hobbs has discovered genetic defects that cause very high and very low blood levels of cholesterol and studied the faulty proteins that underlie these disorders. This information may help determine how the body normally regulates cholesterol by removing it from the bloodstream and shuttling it to the liver, where it is broken down in the bile. In 2001, she identified a genetic defect that causes a rare type of high-cholesterol disorder, autosomal-recessive hypercholesterolemia. People with the disease have normal-functioning LDL receptors but can't remove LDL cholesterol from the bloodstream. She and her colleagues also discovered two genes that play key roles in maintaining the proper balance of sterols in the body; mutations in either gene can lead to a buildup of cholesterol in the blood.
In addition to her laboratory work, Dr. Hobbs sees patients in the clinic and runs the Dallas Heart Study, which aims to uncover heart disease risk factors and find new treatments. Initiated in 1999, the study includes taking blood samples and performing detailed heart imaging studies in 3,000 Dallas County residents. Based on data already collected, Dr. Hobbs recently identified two beneficial genetic mutations linked to low levels of LDL cholesterol.
Dr. Hobbs is a member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation, the Association of American Physicians, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, the National Academy of Sciences, and the Institute of Medicine. Among the many honors she has received are the 2005 Heinrich Wieland Prize, the 2005 Clinical Research Prize of the American Heart Association, and the 2007 Distinguished Scientist Award of the American Heart Association. She is on the editorial board of the journal Cell Metabolism and is a member of the board of directors for the pharmaceutical company Pfizer, Inc.