Top Expert On Mitochondrial Disorders Launches Center At Children’s Hospital

Douglas C. Wallace, Ph.D., a pioneer and internationally prominent scientist in the field of human mitochondrial genetics, has joined The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia to continue his investigations into the role of mitochondrial energy in health and disease.

In establishing the Center of Mitochondrial and Epigenomic Medicine (CMEM) at Children’s Hospital, Wallace leads a team focusing on mitochondria, tiny structures within our cells that produce 90 percent of the body’s energy. Mitochondrial function plays essential roles across the lifespan, in both rare and common childhood diseases, in adult-onset metabolic and degenerative diseases, and in cancer and aging.

“The addition of Dr. Wallace and his extraordinary research program, combined with our hospital’s dedication to translational research, will help advance the understanding of, and potential treatments for, a multitude of disorders and diseases,” said Philip R. Johnson, M.D., Chief Scientific Officer at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Wallace was most recently the founder and director of the Center for Molecular and Mitochondrial Medicine and Genetics at the University of California-Irvine. He first achieved prominence in the 1970s as the leader of a group at Stanford University that defined the genetics of the mitochondrial DNA–the DNA within each mitochondrion, as distinct from the more familiar nuclear DNA inside chromosomes. His group demonstrated that human mitochondrial DNA is inherited exclusively from the mother.

This discovery, together with his finding that mitochondrial DNA variation is both common and correlated with ancestral geographic origins, bridged genetics and anthropology. This allowed Wallace and his colleagues to reconstruct ancient human migration patterns by comparing the mitochondrial DNA variation of people around the world. They revealed that the human mitochondrial DNA first appeared in Africa some 200,000 years ago, that only two mitochondrial DNAs successfully left Africa about 65,000 years ago to colonize Eurasia, and that only five Eurasian mitochondrial DNA lineages subsequently colonized the Americas.

Wallace is the first investigator at Children’s Hospital who is a member of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), the nation’s premier organization of leading researchers. Wallace also is an elected member of the Academy’s Institute of Medicine.

Along with more than a dozen colleagues who accompanied him from his center in California, Wallace has set up his laboratory and center in the Hospital’s recently opened Colket Translational Research Building.

Wallace will assume the Michael and Charles Barnett Endowed Chair in Pediatric Mitochondrial Medicine and Metabolic Disease at Children’s Hospital from Paige Kaplan, M.D., who is retiring. He also joins the faculty in Pathology and Laboratory Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

Source: Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia

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