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Emory biomedical researcher elected to the American Association for the Advancement of Science
Hanjoong Jo

Hanjoong Jo, distinguished faculty chair in the Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, has been elected as an AAAS Fellow for his contributions to atherosclerosis research.

Emory University’s Hanjoong Jo has been elevated to the rank of Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), one of the highest distinctions in the scientific community.

Jo, who serves as distinguished faculty chair at Emory and Georgia Tech’s Wallace H. Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering, joins this group of most distinguished scientists for his contributions to atherosclerosis research, according to the citation from AAAS.

The AAAS especially noted Jo’s use of novel animal models and cultured cells to discover the role of blood flow on endothelial cell dysfunction in atherosclerosis, a buildup of artery-clogging fats and cholesterol that can lead to heart attacks and strokes.

“I am deeply honored and humbled to be elected as an AAAS Fellow. This election recognizes my lifetime contribution to vascular mechanobiology and atherosclerosis by a distinguished group of AAAS Fellows, who are themselves accomplished leaders in broad [science, technology, engineering, and mathematics] fields,” says Jo, who’s also a professor at Emory School of Medicine and Coulter associate chair for Emory.

More than a decade ago, Jo’s research team created what has become a standard tool for atherosclerosis research called the partial carotid ligation model. It allows researchers to directly compare an artery with bad blood flow to one with good blood flow in a single mouse model. The innovation resulted in Jo’s lab directly demonstrating that disturbed blood flow can induce atherosclerosis in the presence of other risk factors, like high cholesterol. 

Jo and his team have identified several genes and proteins that could be key to understanding why bad blood flow has this effect. Recently, his team has shown that flow-sensitive proteins called KLK10 (Kallikrein-like 10) and HIF1a (heat inducible factor-1a) are lost or activated, respectively, when blood flow is disturbed, leading to inflammation that is a critical step toward atherosclerosis. His lab has shown that recombinant KLK10 or an HIF1a inhibitor can be used as novel therapeutics to treat atherosclerosis.

Jo said he will use his new status as an AAAS Fellow to advocate for other accomplished scientists and engineers. He also said it reinforces his drive to continue searching for new ways to treat and prevent cardiovascular disease: “This is one of the most prestigious honors that I have received. I view this as a call to reinvigorate my passion for developing a treatment for atherosclerosis leading to heart attack and ischemic stroke.”

The Fellows will be celebrated later this year at an in-person gathering “when it is feasible from a public health and safety perspective,” AAAS said in a statement. The 2021 class includes 564 scientists, engineers, and innovators across scientific disciplines.

AAAS Fellows are nominated for a lifetime by their peers in the organization, a tradition that began in 1874, and include luminaries such as civil rights activist and historian, W.E.B Du Bois. Jo joins more than 100 Fellows who were elected to the AAAS while serving as Emory faculty members, dating back to 1915. Last year, two Emory researchers were elected as Fellows to the AAAS.

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