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AECOM professor accepts annual prize for research

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Nancy Carrasco, M.D., a leading authority on the iodide-concentrating transport system of the thyroid and other tissues, has received the third annual Marshall S. Horwitz, M.D. Faculty Prize for Research Excellence during a special ceremony at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University.

The award was established in memory of a beloved, long-time member of the Einstein faculty, Marshall S. Horwitz, M.D., who died in 2005. The award was presented to Dr. Carrasco by Allen M. Spiegel, M.D., The Marilyn and Stanley M. Katz Dean at Einstein.

As part of the program, Dr. Carrasco, who is professor of molecular pharmacology and of biochemistry at Einstein, delivered the third annual Horwitz Prize Lecture, which focused on her research over the past 20 years, concerning the iodide-concentrating protein transport system—known as NIS—and its key role in pulling iodide from the bloodstream and into cells of the thyroid gland, salivary glands, and lactating mammary glands. Her research has ramifications in thyroid disease and breast cancer.

Dr. Carrasco has been studying NIS since joining the Einstein faculty in 1987. Although the function of this system had been known for more than 100 years, the responsible mediator had not been identified at the molecular level. In a remarkable breakthrough in 1996, Dr. Carrasco’s laboratory cloned the NIS gene and identified its key transport role.

Iodide is scarce in the environment and is an essential component of the thyroid hormones triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). These hormones play crucial roles in regulating metabolism in virtually all tissues and in governing the growth and maturation of the nervous system, skeletal muscle, and lungs of the developing fetus and newborn. NIS-mediated iodide uptake in the thyroid gland is the extremely important first step in synthesizing T3 and T4.

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