January 8, 1998

Media Contact: Holly Korschun, 404/727-3990 -- hkorsch@emory .edu,

As one of the world's leading researchers in the field, Barry Shur, Ph.D., chair of Emory University's Department of Cell Biology, is credited with opening up an entire n ew area of research with his work in the biology of adhesion and cell surface interactions. He and his colleagues, in research begun 20 years ago, identified the receptor on the sperm surface called galactosyl transferase that allows the sperm to bind to the egg coat and fertilize the egg. Dr. Shur believes this knowlege may lead to further understanding of many instances of infertility and to more specific, less toxic contraceptives.

He discovered that galactosyl transferase is also used by metastatic cancer cells when they migrate from a primary tumor and bind to distant cells. He has shown that the more aggressive a metastatic cancer cell is, the more of the receptor it expresses. "Our hope is that by blocking this receptor we might blo ck metastasis," he says. "In the laboratory, we can make poorly aggressive tumors highly aggressive by molecularly expressing more of the receptor, and we can make highly malignant cells less malignant by inhibiting the expression of that protein."

Just Add Frog Eggs, Flies, Worms, Fish and Slime Mold

When Dr. Shur came to Emory, he had a mandate to expand and rejuvenate the department by hiring top-notch new faculty members. After narrowing the field to 10 superstars, he f inally limited his offers to three highly competitive candidates. All three accepted. He was well on his way to expanding his new department exactly according to plan in molecular cell and developmental biology.


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