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Wally Wang

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One of the College’s newest faculty members is assistant professor Wally Wang, a molecular physiologist in the Department of Nutritional Sciences and Toxicology. Wang arrived at Berkeley after completing a research fellowship at UCSF.

Your work looks at the molecular mechanisms affected by cortisone, a very important and heavily prescribed drug for treating asthma, arthritis, and other inflammatory and immune diseases. Why is it important to figure out that mechanism?

When chronically prescribed, this class of hormones, called glucocorticoids, can cause undesired side effects such as osteoporosis, muscle atrophy and many metabolic disorders. That’s why it’s important to find mechanisms that maintain anti-inflammatory and anti-immune activities without the side effects. Scientists have been trying to identify these mechanisms, called “selective modulators,” for a long time, but we still don’t know completely about the mechanisms of functional interaction between receptor and hormones.

Is this class of hormones linked to other diseases?

Abnormal glucocorticoid signaling is also linked to some metabolic diseases, such as diabetes and obesity. So a better understanding of metabolic effects of glucocorticoids not only is important for basic knowledge of physiology, but also will provide new insights for potential pharmaceutical intervention in treating metabolic diseases.

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