I. Human-Pathogen Interaction
II. Helicobacter pylori and Gastric Cancer
Part I: Human-Pathogen Interaction
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Ninety percent of the cells humans carry are microbes. Only a few of the bacteria we encounter are pathogenic and can cause disease. Pathogens possess the inherent ability to cross anatomic barriers or breach other host defenses that limit the microbes that make up our normal flora. A significant part of human evolution has gone into developing ways to thwart microbial intrusion. In turn, microbes have come up with clever ways to avoid and circumvent host defenses but human — microbe interactions are still a "Work in Progress." When we study pathogens we learn as much about ourselves as we do about them.
Helicobacter pylori lives in the human stomach. It causes gastritis, ulcer disease and even gastric cancer. Some H. pylori can inject a protein, CagA, into gastric epithelial cells. CagA interacts with the tight junctions that bind cells together and with signaling molecules affecting motility and proliferation. CagA is associated with ulcer disease and cancer but we don't understand how it works to favor malignancy. Not long ago in history most humans carried H. pylori; the incidence of carriage and gastric cancer is dropping but there is evidence that this microbe also had a protective effect on human health.
Stanley Falkow is the Robert W. and Vivian K. Cahill Professor of Microbiology and Immunology and of Medicine, Department of Microbiology and Immunology and Medicine, at the Stanford University School of Medicine. He has been on faculty since 1981. Before that he was on the faculty of the University of Washington and Georgetown University.
Falkow received a B.S. degree in Bacteriology from the University of Maine, Orono (1955), and a Ph.D. degree in Biology from Brown University (1961). His laboratory worked on antibiotic resistance mediated by plasmids and transposition in the 1960s and 1970s, and for the past 25 years has explored how bacterial pathogens cause disease.
Dr. Falkow's honors include the Squibb Award, Infectious Diseases Society of America, the Paul Ehrlich-Ludwig Darmstaedter Prize, The Robert Koch Award, the Selman A. Waksman Award in Microbiology, National Academy of Sciences and the American Society for Microbiology Graduate Microbiology Teaching Award.
Falkow has been elected to the National Academy of Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is a foreign member of the European Molecular Biology Organization and the Royal Society of London.
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