Bryon E. Petersen, Ph.D., 2009 Life Sciences Award

Written by on August 10, 2009 in 2009, Life Sciences Award, Researcher

Bryon Petersen

Bryon E. Petersen, Ph.D.

Associate Professor
University of Florida
Gainesville, Florida

Dr. Bryon Petersen has been recognized worldwide as a foremost authority in hepatic stem cells and their role in Liver Pathobiology. He is currently conducting research in stem cell biology and how it relates to the patho-physiology of the liver. Dr. Petersen’s seminal paper in the journal Science (Science 284: 1168-1170) helped usher in the stem cell field as we know it today. This research showed that bone marrow derived cells could become functioning hepatocytes, and several clinical trials have been attempted based upon his discovery. In addition, Dr. Petersen is investigating the usefulness of gene/stem cell therapy in the treatment of certain inherited metabolic diseases of the liver (Crigler-Najjar Syndrome (C-NS) and Glycogen Storage Disease (GSD)).

Children with C-NS are unable to eliminate bilirubin from their bodies and, therefore, must undergo daily 12-hour exposure to special blue lights, just to survive. Without daily treatments, a child would suffer brain damage, muscle and nerve damage and death due to bilirubin toxicity. Children with GCS suffer in a different way, having to eat/drink a corn-starch meal every four hours to maintain their blood glucose levels. If they don’t, they become hypoglycemic and will fall into a coma and die. To date very few options are available for treatment of these diseases. Liver transplantation is an efficacious therapy, but the number of donor organs is limited, requires life-long immune suppression and in most cases is cost prohibitive. His studies combine two high-profile fields–stem cells and gene therapy–that will hopefully cure these children of their disease, not just treat them.

In addition, Dr. Petersen’s laboratory is working on whether or not bone marrow derived cells can be a useful approach in the treatment of Type-1 Diabetes. His lab has shown that bone marrow derived cells can be differentiated into insulin producing cells, which can then be transplanted into mice and correct their hyperglycemia.

Dr. Petersen continues his work on bone marrow-derived stem cells, elucidating the mechanisms behind the signals to which they respond as well as how they repopulate a damaged liver. Dr. Petersen’s lab has demonstrated temporal and profound role of several different molecules such as (SDF-1, G-CSF and SST) on stem cell proliferation and differentiation, which will be critical for successful hepatic tissue engineering.

Lastly, Dr. Petersen has begun to work on hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and therapeutic targeting of stem cells in HCC will be highly significant, especially since several cancer stem cells are being identified in solid tumor settings.

Dr. Petersen received his BA from the University of Iowa, and his MS and Ph.D. from the University of Pittsburgh. His post-doctorate training continued at Pitt in the Department of Pathology, where he was promoted to Research Assistant Professor. In 2000, Dr. Petersen took a faculty position at the University of Florida as an Assistant Professor and is currently an Associate Professor with tenure.

The Christopher Columbus Fellowship Foundation is honored to have had the assistance of the following distinguished individuals serving on the 2009 Life Sciences Awards Evaluation Committee:

  • Prof. Dr. Vittorio Daniore
    Scientific Attaché
    Embassy of Italy
    Washington, D.C.
  • Jonathan S. Fish, M.D.
  • Dr. Venigalla Rao
    Department of Biology
    The Catholic University of America
  • Samana Zulu, M.D.


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