Massimo Pietropaolo, a physician-scientist and specialist in type 1 diabetes, has been nominated as a McNair Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine, adding his expertise to the program that aims to support prominent researchers and bring them to work at the school. Pietropaolo will begin serving as the new professor of medicine in the department of pathology and immunology at BCM.
Supported by the Robert and Janice McNair Foundation and directed by the McNair Medical Institute, the McNair Scholar program at Baylor focuses primarily on the fields of breast and pancreatic cancer, as well as juvenile diabetes and neuroscience. In response to these disease focuses, the program has been searching for influential investigators working in these areas, which led to the recruiting of Pietropaolo.
With a medical doctorate from the University of Perugia, in Italy and a research fellowship from the Joslin Diabetes Center at Harvard Medical School, Pietropaolo was the scientist responsible for the discovery of a key regulator of the formation and maturation of insulin within pancreatic beta cells, called neuroendocrine auto antigen ICA69.
Understanding the function of the key regulator enabled him to advance the field of adaptive immune responses directed at ICA69, as well as islet autoantigen IA-2, in order to determine the probability of the patients of suffering juvenile diabetes. His studies not only have been important in understanding the function of the disease, but also to advance the prevention of diabetes.
Pietropaolo’s current work is focused on the identification of the molecular structure of immunoglobulins, directed at the islet cell molecule IA-2 through the use of targeted mass spectrometry (MS) and barcode sequencing methodologies. Working in his own laboratory, the physician expects this research to result into a new tool that will be able to improve the knowledge of autoantibody responses in children suffering from type 1 diabetes, as well as first degree relatives of type 1 diabetics receiving immunologic treatment for the disease.
In addition, Pietropaolo also serves as chair and reviewer for a number of National Institutes of Health study sections, as well as co-director of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Biomarker Working Group, and a member of the Type 1 Diabetes Exchange Biobank Scientific Review Committee.
Among the several awards he has been granted for his research are an Investigator Award from the Association of American Physicians, the Career Development Award from the American Diabetes Association, and the Outstanding Alumni Achievement Award from the University of Perugia, School of Medicine, Italy.
The McNair Scholar program at Baylor recently also recruited Erez Aiden as an assistant professor of genetics. The investigator, who was responsible for the invention of the Hi-C method for three-dimensional genome sequencing, has already received several awards, including the Early Career Award in Science and Engineering from the President of the United States, which is the highest government honor for young scientists.