Vanderbilt University

Some significant discoveries from the list:

Fetal Surgery
Drs.Joseph Bruner and Noel Tulipan were determined to find a way to do surgery sooner when the baby had a better chance ofrecovery,even survival.They found it in 1997. Bruner,who directs Vanderbilt’s fetal diagnosis and therapy program,and Tulipan, director ofpediatric neurosurgery,developed a dramatic new technique to operate on a stricken child while still in its mother’s womb.

Chick Embryo Technique for Culturing Viruses
The next time you or your child is about to receive an immunization and your healthcare provider asks ifyou’re allergic to eggs, remember Dr.Ernest W.Goodpasture and his contribution to fighting viral disease. In 1931 the professor ofpathology developed the first practical method for cultivating large quantities ofa virus in the laboratory—by growing it in the exposed membrane ofa chick embryo. “It revolutionized the study ofviruses and viral diseases,”says Dr.Robert D.Collins, the John L.Shapiro Professor ofPathology,who was one ofGoodpasture’s students. “Scientists from all over the world came here to learn the technique.” The method opened the door for research that probed the nature ofviruses and led to the development ofvaccines to protect against viral diseases.

Viagra earned the highest revenue ofany drug in history during its first year of release. Most ofthe basic science research done to identify and clone the enzyme PD-5, which is responsible for Viagra’s effect,was conducted at Vanderbilt by Jackie D.Corbin, professor ofmolecular physiology and biophysics,and Sharron Francis,research professor in molecular physiology. Corbin earned his Ph.D.from Vanderbilt in 1968 and did post-doctoral work for three years at the University ofCalifornia,then returned to Vanderbilt where he has spent much ofhis time working on cyclic GMP,a molecule that is key to regulating a number ofvital smoothmuscle functions,including blood pressure and penile erection. In 1984 he and Francis merged their labs and have been collaborating ever since.

Neonatal Intensive Care Unit

A research project led by Mildred Stahlman, BA’43,MD’46—and funded by the National Institutes of Health—was under way at the time to try and determine what physiological changes occurred in babies as they develop from intrauterine life to the world outside.The NIH grant resulted in the addition ofa laboratory adjacent to the nursery at Vanderbilt Hospital.At the same time,Dr. Stahlman obtained a prototype ofa respirator that was the same type used for polio patients,but it had been scaled down for premature baby size. In October ofthat year, the ongoing research project came face to face with life-or-death human need. The pioneering work of Mildred Stahlman, who continues today as a professor ofpediatrics and pathology at Vanderbilt,led her to put into place the first modern neonatal intensive care unit in the world.

Astronomical Bodies
Edward Emerson Barnard,a professor of astronomy at Vanderbilt in the late 1800s, was the first to witness and document numerous astronomical discoveries ofhis day.The only person ever to receive an honorary academic degree from Vanderbilt,he discovered 16 comets,more than 23 nebulae,and Jupiter’s fifth moon.He was the first person to photograph the Milky Way.

Vanderbilt Voice Center
Ifyou’re a country music singer who’s prone to fraying your vocal cords after belting out one too many ofyour hit ballads at one too many state fairs,then you’ve probably got this center on your speed dial. The list ofpatients who have sought treatment at the Vanderbilt Voice Center reads like a Who’s Who ofCountry Music.(Because country singers often lack formal training,they are particularly vulnerable to straining their voices.) In one recent year,nearly one-fourth ofthe singers nominated for Country Music Association Awards had been patients. “In an industry where perception is everything,even a hint that you’ve had trouble with your voice can make or break a record deal,”says speech pathologist Melissa Kirby,who coordinates the Center’s Preventative Care Program.“We’re very protective ofour patients.” Not all patients are singers.Bill Clinton sought the Center’s research when he was a presidential candidate. Patients who use their voices professionally—ministers,lawyers,broadcasters and teachers,as well as performers—may be treated with voice therapy,medication or even surgery at the Center.In 1999 doctors at the Vanderbilt Voice Center were the first in the United States to fit a patient with a laryngeal pacemaker called an Implantable Pulse Generator (IPG),allowing a Missouri woman with paralyzed vocal folds to breathe and speak normally. Care at the Voice Center,which is housed in the Vanderbilt Bill Wilkerson Center,includes a combination ofdiagnosis and intervention by three teams:physicians,speech-language pathologists and singing specialists.

De-Stigmatizing Homosexuality
In 1952 the American Psychiatric Association added homosexuality to an official list of mental illnesses in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. The label remained for 20 years,until John E.Fryer,MD’62,broke the silence about his profession’s tacit discrimination and forced his fellow psychiatrists to confront the classification by appearing at a 1972 American Psychiatric Association convention as “Dr. Anonymous.”Wearing a baggy suit,a mask and a huge wig,and using a microphone that distorted his voice,Fryer riveted fellow therapists when he announced,“I am a homosexual.I am a psychiatrist.” “As psychiatrists who are homosexual,we must know our place and what we must do to be successful.The following year the APA’s board of trustees removed homosexuality from its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual,a result of Fryer’s speech and years ofactivism.It was considered a major victory for gay and lesbian civil rights.

Nobel Laureates
When biochemist Stanley Cohen injected salivary gland extract into newborn mice,he noticed a strange acceleration of development:Their eyes opened and teeth erupted earlier than usual.This observation led Cohen, then a researcher at Washington University, to discover the substance epidermal growth factor (EGF),so named because it stimulated the growth ofepithelial cells in the cornea and skin. Cohen had previously,with Italian developmental biologist Rita Levi-Montalcini,isolated a nerve growth factor (NGF) that Levi-Montalcini had discovered in certain mouse tumors.The two shared the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their “discoveries ofgrowth factors.” Cohen’s isolation ofEGF and determination ofits amino acid sequence provided scientists for the first time with a factor that allowed studies ofthe cell growth process. His work laid the foundation for the study ofgrowth factors and the mechanisms regulating growth and survival ofcells—ofcritical importance to cancer research. Cohen has been on the Vanderbilt faculty since 1959 and is now distinguished professor ofbiochemistry,emeritus.
Earl Sutherland opened the black box that concealed the secrets ofhormone action.The Vanderbilt professor ofphysiology (1963–73) won the 1971 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for “his discoveries concerning the mechanisms of the action of hormones.” In studying how adrenaline causes liver cells to convert glycogen to glucose,Sutherland discovered a previously unknown substance—cyclic AMP—a metabolic regulating compound.He proposed a general scheme for hormone action in which hormones interact with receptors on the cell surface.These receptors,he contended,then pass the signal along to an enzyme that manufactures cyclic AMP intracellularly where it activates or inhibits various metabolic processes. Sutherland called cyclic AMP the “second messenger”(the hormone was the first messenger).The second messenger-signaling mechanism he described is now one ofthe basic stepping stones ofcutting-edge research and laid the groundwork for much current work in intracellular signaling at Vanderbilt.

Sanford Moore, BA ’35 won the 1972 Nobel Prize in Chemistry with Chrstian Anfinsen of the National Institute of Health and William Stein of Rockefeller University.  The award recognized their fundamental contributions to enzyme chemistry through their work with the enzyme ribonuclease.  Their studies illuminated some of the most important principles involving the relation between the chemical structure and catalytic activity of an enzyme.

Max Delbruck began working with bacteriophages, viruses that infect and destroy bacteria in the 1930s.  In 1937 he fled Nazi Germany for America, working first at the California Institute of Technology and at Vanderbilt during the war years from 1940 to 1947.  He was one of the first to link quantum physics and other fields of science, including biology.  In 1969 he and Salvdor Luria and Alfred Hershey won the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their discovery of the replication mechanism for viruses and the genetic structure of viruses.  Delbruck discovered that the genetic material of different kinds of viruses can combine to create new types of viruses, a process previously believed limited to higher forms of life.

Project Head Start
In the mid-1960s,President Lyndon Johnson launched his “War on Poverty”at the same time education researchers were studying the effectiveness ofearly intervention programs on low-income children.Leading much ofthis research was child psychologist Susan Gray,MA’39,PhD’41,a professor ofpsychology at Peabody College and a founder of what is now Vanderbilt’s John F.Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development. In 1959 Gray and colleague Rupert Klaus designed the Early Training Project (ETP),a preschool educational intervention program. ETP investigations revealed significant,positive effects ofintellectually and culturally enriching experiences upon the cognitive, social and emotional development—and subsequent school achievement—ofchildren from low-income families. With passage ofthe Economic Opportunity Act in 1964,a mechanism was created to develop initiatives aimed at ending poverty.The next year,Susan Gray’s Early Training Project became the inspiration and model for one ofthese national initiatives—Project Head Start. Head Start was designed to help break the poverty cycle by providing preschool children oflow-income families with a comprehensive program to meet their emotional, social,health,nutritional and psychological needs.Since 1965,Head Start has enrolled more than 21.2 million children and currently has a $6.5 billion annual budget.Administered by the U.S.Department ofHealth and Human Services’Administration for Children and Families,it is the world’s largest government-supported social program for children. Susan Gray died in 1992 and is today considered among the 20th century’s greatest child psychologists.Peabody College honors her legacy through the Susan Gray School for Children,an inclusive early childhood education program serving young children with and without disabilities.

Keck Free-Electron Laser Center
Star Trek”doctor Leonard McCoy would approve ofthis one:Researchers and surgeons at Vanderbilt’s W.W.Keck Foundation Free-Electron Laser Center are laying the groundwork for eventually replacing the scalpel with laser light in both brain and eye surgery. Visible light spans only a tiny sliver ofthe entire electromagnetic spectrum.The lower end ofthe spectrum ranges from radio waves that are hundreds ofmeters long,through millimeter-sized microwaves,to infrared radiation associated with radiant heat.The upper end proceeds from the ultraviolet rays that cause sunburn,through X-rays,up to gamma rays with wavelengths less than the diameter ofan atom and energies three trillion times greater than typical waves.Each color,or wavelength,interacts with matter in a different way.

Heart Transplatation
In November 1967 pioneer heart surgeon Norman Shumway, MD’49,held a press conference at Stanford University announcing that he and a surgical team were ready to perform what would be the world’s first human heart transplant as soon as a suitable donor and recipient were found. Within a few days,however,surgeon Christiaan Barnard bested the Shumway team by performing the first human heart transplant in South Africa,making headlines around the world.Shumway had known Barnard at the University ofMinnesota;it was a technique Shumway perfected in his animal lab that Barnard applied to that first heart transplant. A month after Barnard performed his surgery,Shumway and a team at Stanford performed the first adult human heart transplant in the United States.“The fact that the focus was on Barnard was a blessing,”Shumway told Vanderbilt Magazinein 1998.“It allowed us to continue our work without much folderol.” But patient deaths soon overshadowed these surgical triumphs. By 1971,146 of170 heart-transplant recipients were dead ofinfection or rejection.Most American surgeons abandoned the procedure. Shumway persevered.He and colleagues spent the next decade tackling the complex challenge oftissue rejection.In the late 1970s they obtained a supply ofcyclosporine,a drug originally intended for chemotherapy but found not to be effective and therefore discontinued.Cyclosporin dramatically boosted the survival rate oftransplant patients. In 1981 a team headed by Shumway performed the world’s first heart/lung transplant. The son ofa Michigan creamery owner,Shumway wound up at Vanderbilt by chance in the 1940s when World War II helped create a demand for surgeons.Within a decade ofhis Vanderbilt graduation,he was already making news with a heart-bypass surgery technique for correcting “blue baby”birth defects.

Just three decades ago,most parents of children with intellectual,physical or behavioral disabilities believed they had no choice but to “institutionalize”or “segregate”their children—to place them in a facility or classroom where they would receive specialized instruction, apart from typically developing children and often with very negative results. The educational environment of2003 is quite different,thanks in large part to the research oftwo former investigators at Vanderbilt’s John F.Kennedy Center for Research on Human Development.In the early 1970s, Peabody College professors William Bricker and Diane Bricker,PhD’70,led the Toddler Research and Intervention Project in the Kennedy Center’s Experimental School (now called the Susan Gray School for Children).Through the project,and for the first time,an equal number ofchildren with and without disabilities learned together in the same preschool classroom.Eventually,the term “mainstreaming”and,later,“inclusion” was applied to this approach. Research has continued to prove that,in most cases,all children—those with and without disabilities—benefit academically and socially from an appropriate inclusive classroom environment.Children with disabilities are stimulated by experiences that promote typical child development,and children without disabilities learn to accept and value the differences in their classmates.All learn firsthand that everyone has different needs and different strengths. Although the model ofinclusion is debated and sometimes hotly opposed, inclusive education is today considered the recommended practice among educators—and by legislators. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), first passed by Congress in 1975 and amended in 1997, requires that children with disabilities be educated in regular classrooms “to the maximum extent appropriate,”unless “the nature and severity ofthe disability is such that education in regular classes with the use ofsupplementary aids and services cannot be achieved satisfactorily.” Because research has shown inclusion’s benefits,general and special educators now work more closely together than ever before to ensure that each individual child’s needs are met,whenever possible in an inclusive setting.