Dr Helen H. Hobbs, Investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Director of the Eugene McDermott Center for Human Growth and Development at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center, was the 2019 Speaker of the ninth edition of TNQ Distinguished Lectures in the Life Sciences. She gave lectures in Hyderabad, Bengaluru, and New Delhi.
Professor Hobbs’ work is focussed on searching for genetic factors that contribute to, and protect us from, diseases arising from dietary excess as food has become easily available and human beings more sedentary. In 1999, along with her colleagues, Professor Hobbs established the Dallas Heart Study (DHS) aimed at identifying factors that contribute to coronary heart disease and metabolic disorders. This 3500+ population group study showed that mutations in the protein PCSK9 result in lower levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), the cholesterol in the blood that leads to atherosclerosis or the clogging of arteries.
These observations led to the rapid development of two FDA-approved, anti-PCSK9 antibodies for the treatment of hypercholesterolemia and the prevention of coronary atherosclerosis. More recently, Dr Hobbs’ team has identified sequence variations that are associated with the full spectrum of alcoholic and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (FLD), including steatosis, steatohepatitis, cirrhosis, and hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).
Dr Hobbs and her team found that mutations in the protein PNPLA3 were strongly linked to this condition. Yet another screen showed that a mutation in TM6SF2 led to an increase in fat content. Dr Hobbs’ team has shown that this protein helps the liver secrete fat into the blood in triglyceride-rich lipoproteins.
Dr Hobbs attended Stanford University and Case Western Reserve Medical School before training in internal medicine at the Columbia-Presbyterian Hospital in New York City, and the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, Texas
Helen Hobbs found a way to fight bad cholesterol, The Hindu
Cholesterol-lowering interventions to start early says Helen Hobbs, The Hindu
A geneticist wages war against ‘bad’ cholesterol, The Hindu
A lifetime of finding genes to counter heart disease, The Hindu
Profile of Helen Hobbs, Breakthrough Prize
Profile of Helen Hobbs, UT Southwestern Medical Center
Profile of Helen Hobbs, Howard Hughes Medical Institute