Dr. Michael P. Sheetz Robert A Welch Distinguished University Chair in Chemistry in the Department of Biochemistry & Molecular Biology

Sheetz wins Pearse Prize

The Royal Microscopical Society (RMS) has awarded Dr. Michael P. Sheetz the Pearse Prize for his “long and illustrious career in mechanobiological research”. 

Sheetz is best known for his role in the discovery of kinesin, a protein that helps move material inside a cell, and as founder director of the Mechanobiology Institute at the National University of Singapore.  The molecular motors have excited much interest in the mechanism of force production that is illustrated in widely viewed videos of the movement.

During Sheetz’s time as director, the Institute researchers discovered many important aspects of how cells use mechanical forces to shape organisms and repair wounds.   

Sheetz’s recent research built upon studies of the cell cytoskeletons that serve as walking surfaces for motor proteins as well as shaping the cells. His lab has shown how the inability of cancer cells to sense extracellular matrix rigidity enables them to grow on soft surfaces and makes them susceptible to mechanical killing by low frequency ultrasound. 

“We are now looking for ways to increase the level of tumor cell killing to make low frequency ultrasound an effective therapy,” Sheetz said.  

Sheetz is the Robert A Welch Distinguished University Chair in Chemistry at University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston. Since 2013, he has been on the list of 20 most influential medical researchers alive today. He has 357 publications, has been cited more than 66,000 times, and is senior author on 11 Cell Papers, 10 Nature Papers and six Science Papers. Sheetz’s work continues to focus on understanding mechanical therapies at the molecular level to benefit human health. 

He will travel to Manchester, UK next summer to accept the Pearse Prize and give an RMS lecture.  

“It’s a very nice recognition of the work that we've done in the past and it's always nice that somebody appreciates those things that you've done,” Sheetz said.  

The Pearse Prize recognizes significant contributions to histochemistry and life sciences in honor of Professor Tony Pearse, the first chair of the RMS Histochemistry and Cytochemistry Section, founded in 1965. Sheetz is the tenth recipient of the award since its inception in 1982. The award is usually given every four or five years, and only if there is a suitable candidate.

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