UNT Health Science Center Student Receives Prestigious Grass Fellowship

March 23, 2006

Joshua W. Gatson, doctoral candidate in the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences, Department of Pharmacology and Neuroscience, was recently awarded a Grass Fellowship at the Marine Biological Laboratory.

â??I applied first of all just to get more exposure in how research is conducted in academia,â? Gatson said. â??In the Grass Fellowship, you actually go in as an independent investigator. I wouldnâ??t go into the program as a PhD student or a postdoctoral student, but more as a new faculty member. All of my work will be independent.â?

As part of his application, Gatson wrote a grant proposal for the Grass Foundation to outline his course of research during the fellowship period.

In his proposal, Gatson hypothesized that the androgen receptor forms a complex with the estrogen receptor and blocks the survival-promoting effects of estrogen. Research has shown that estrogen protects the brain against injury. According to Gatson, if more of the androgen receptor binds to the estrogen receptor, the androgen receptor blocks the neuroprotective effects of estrogen, which would mean that estrogen treatment may not help people with high levels of androgen or high androgen receptor levels. His research this summer will work on this hypothesis.

â??There are very few studies that look at the effects of androgens in various disease states in the brain,â? Gatson said. â??Since very little attention has been focused on androgens in the brain, that can be a positive as well as a negative. The good thing about pursuing this area of research is that I can open the door and describe the importance of androgens during various disease states. The negative side to studying androgens in the brain is that very little information has been published on androgen action in the brain, so I have to try to figure out the ins and outs. This research that I do this summer should shed some light on the role of the androgen receptor as well as testosterone with respect to neuroprotection.â?

Gatson will begin his Grass Fellowship on May 21 and remain at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole, Mass., until Aug. 26.

Gatson earned his masterâ??s degree at the health science center in microbiology and immunology in Spring 2003. He has been active in campus events and has served as Black Graduate Student Association president for two years and vice president for two years. He has also been active in the Graduate Student Association, and he has worked with Fort Worth ISD high school students as a Schoolsâ?? Cooperative Opportunities for Resources and Education (SCORE) fellow for three years.

Gatson works under the supervision of Meharvan Singh, PhD, assistant professor in pharmacology and neuroscience.

Gatson is the second health science center student in pharmacology and neuroscience to be named a Grass Fellow. Eric Gonzales, PhD, GSBS 2005, was a Grass Fellow in 2004.

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Contact: Kay Colley 817-735-2553, cell 817-980-5090, e-mail kacolley@hsc.unt.edu.

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