Paul Wong, PhD

Science Park – Research Division
Professor, Department of Molecular Carcinogenesis, Science Park-Research Division,
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Smithville, TX
Adjunct Professor, Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston, TX
Adjunct Professor, Department of Microbiology, University of Texas at 
(Smithville, TX)

Paul Wong studies the mechanisms of retroviral-induced and defective gene-mediated neurodegeneration and cancer. One of the major recent breakthroughs in his research involves studies on the human childhood genetic disease called ataxia telangiectasia (A-T). Atm gene defect results in multiple syndromes including premature aging, immunodeficiency, neurodegeneration and cancer. Paul Wong and the researchers in his lab have used a mouse model for A-T to learn how A-T and premature aging/neurodegenerative diseases can be counter-acted by drug treatment. A prominent feature of neurodegeneration in A-T is the loss of Purkinje cells (PC) in the cerebellum of the brain. In normal conditions, the loss of PCs can be replaced by the resident neural stem cell in the brain. Their study shows that loss of ATM protein impairs self-renewal and proliferation of NSCs through an oxidative stress-mediated pathway that renders the NSCs unable to regenerate and differentiate to replace the lost neurons. Using a treatment targeting the oxidative stress-mediated pathway, they were able to correct the dysregulated pathway in NSCs thereby restoring the neuronal loss and correcting the neural motor deficits in the A-T mice. This provides a promising approach to replace degenerated neurons for A-T by targeting dysfunctional NSCs in situ rather than using the alternative method of transplantation of stem cells. The implications of this discovery are immeasurable, considering that a whole array of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Lou Gehrig’s (or ALS), multiple sclerosis, and many others, may be impacted.

Research programs at the Science Park are highly interactive and focused on the elucidation of the cellular and molecular mechanisms of carcinogenesis. The research team consists of 65 doctoral level scientists of whom 46 are permanent staff. The interdisciplinary and interactive research at the Science Park directly relates to cancers of the skin, liver, breast, prostate, colon, kidney, vagina, uterus, and blood-cell producing tissues. Moreover, discoveries by researchers at the Science Park about what makes the genetic code of normal cells go awry are applicable to other health problems such as cardiovascular disease and degenerative diseases of the nervous and immune systems.   Read More about Science Park