Paul J Lombroso, M.D.
An unusual career trajectory brought me to my current work in translational neuroscience. I graduated from Harvard College and received an M.D. at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. I completed a residency in adult psychiatry at Jacobi Hospital and a fellowship in Child Psychiatry at Harvard, and began an active clinical practice at Cambridge Hospital and a private practice in Brookline. In 1983, I met the woman I would later marry, Janice Naegele, who was completing her Ph.D. in Neuroscience at MIT. She was subsequently offered a postdoctoral position with Torsten Wiesel at Rockefeller University, and we moved back to NYC where I became director of the outpatient unit at St. Vincent’s Hospital in Greenwich Village.
While in New York, I decided that molecular biology was a critical, but neglected area in child and adult psychiatry. This was in the early 1980s when several genes for neuropsychiatric disorders were being mapped onto specific chromosomes (e.g., Huntington’s chorea). I was excited by the idea that we could map genes and find mutations within those genes that cause specific disorders, and decided to become a molecular biologist. This discipline holds the great promise of uncovering the underlying molecular basis for neuropsychiatric disorders. Molecular biology advances our understanding for these disorders and suggests novel therapeutic interventions.
I became a fellow once again, first in the laboratory of Paul Greengard and then with Jeffrey Friedman, both at Rockefeller University. For a clinician, it was not an easy transition to make. I was an expert in clinical psychiatry, but a neophyte in molecular biology. However, after two years at the bench at Rockefeller and then three more with Michael Lerner at Yale, I became proficient in molecular biology.
Now as a laboratory director at Yale University Medical School, I continue to see patients, but the majority of my day is devoted to overseeing an active research program with 10 postdoctoral fellows, Yale undergraduates, medical students and technicians.
The focus of research in the laboratory is on a protein tyrosine phosphatase, termed STEP. This is an exciting time in my lab, as we are learning STEP is involved in several neuropsychiatric disorders. We have discovered that STEP is over-expressed in fragile X syndrome, in schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease. This is interesting in itself, as one is a disorder present at birth, one is a disorder in which symptoms typically begin in adolescence, and one is an illness at the end of life. The increase in STEP expression leads to inappropriate internalization of specific glutamate receptors, and we are testing the hypothesis that this contributes to the pathophysiology of these illnesses.
My wife and I have three delightful children ages 16 to 23 years. She is a Professor of Neuroscience and Behavior in the Biology Department at Wesleyan University in Middletown, CT. Juggling two academic careers and three active children has been challenging, but extremely rewarding.