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Of mice and magnets: what’s inside the Congress Avenue Building

Yale Medicine Magazine, 2003 - Winter


When admissions candidates toured the medical school in recent years, their student guides didn’t go out of their way to show off Yale’s overcrowded and poorly ventilated first-year gross anatomy and histology laboratories. That will be changing. “We will be putting the new building on the tour,” said Associate Dean for Admissions Thomas L. Lentz, M.D. ’64, professor and vice chair of cell biology. “Hopefully it will help in recruiting.” A tour of the new building should also help attract the faculty who are expected to join the expanded research programs it will house.

What visitors to the north wing will find are three floors of new teaching facilities. The new anatomy and histology laboratories have been designed to improve interaction among students and faculty, with a U-shaped configuration replacing the traditional straight line of workbenches. The new building also provides computer network connections at every laboratory and seminar-room work space, as well as wall monitors and other audiovisual display systems. The small-group teaching focus at Yale will be enhanced by the six seminar rooms dispersed among the student laboratory spaces. A 152-seat auditorium adjacent to the large atrium lobby will bring students and faculty together for lectures and conferences.

Core research facilities serving the entire Yale campus fill a warehouse-sized space two floors below the lobby level. The Animal Resources Center will offer services for production of transgenic and gene-knockout mice, which are used as animal models in disease studies. On the two floors above, the Magnetic Resonance Research Center will serve investigators throughout Yale with nine powerful imaging magnets. Bioimaging faculty will have a large, open area for working together on advanced computational studies. Douglas L. Rothman, Ph.D., director of the center, notes one pleasant advantage for him in moving from the center’s current home in the Fitkin Memorial Pavilion basement: “It will be the first time I’ve had a window since 1985.”

The six floors of the massive south wing will house nine research programs. The two basic science components, the Section of Immunobiology, chaired by Richard A. Flavell, Ph.D., and a new Program in Human Genetics and Genomics, directed by Richard P. Lifton, M.D., Ph.D., will be neighbors of seven clinical research programs. They are:

Arthritis and Autoimmunity, under the direction of Joseph E. Craft, M.D., HS ’77, a group that has, among other accomplishments, developed new tools for early diagnosis of lupus and is testing second-generation vaccines for Lyme disease;

Asthma and Lung Diseases, which is directed by Jack A. Elias, M.D., and has recently been credited with identifying two genes that cause pulmonary emphysema;

Diabetes and Bone Diseases, composed of three groups, one working on the causes of type I diabetes and led by Robert S. Sherwin, M.D., a second, directed by Gerald I. Shulman, M.D., Ph.D., focusing on understanding the molecular basis of insulin resistance in patients with type II diabetes, and a third group looking at bone development, under the leadership of Arthur E. Broadus, M.D., Ph.D.;

Digestive Diseases, directed by Henry J. Binder, M.D., recently won an NIH core grant to support its wide-ranging studies of the gastrointestinal tract and liver;

Hypertension and Kidney Failure, which studies the causes of diseases that affect 50 million Americans, under the leadership of Peter S. Aronson, M.D., and in close collaboration with Lifton;

Infectious Diseases, led by Keith A. Joiner, M.D., focuses on how parasites live in their host cells in the hopes of developing drugs to kill the pathogens causing such widespread diseases as malaria and toxoplasmosis; and

Vascular Disease and Cardiology, headed by Jeffrey R. Bender, M.D., HS ’83, will bring together previously scattered researchers working on the genetics of heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States.

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