Dr. Jefferey M. Friedman

International Awards

Hamdan Award for Medical Research Excellence - Obesity
2009-2010
Personal Details/Academic Background
Born in Orlando, Florida, in July 1954, Dr. Jeffrey M Friedman is married with two daughters. Dr. Friedman graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and in 1977, at the age of 22, received his MD from Albany Medical College of Union University. After completing two residencies at the Albany Medical Centre Hospital, Dr. Friedman joined the Rockefeller as a postgraduate fellow and associate physician in 1980. In 1986, he received his PhD, working in the lab of James E. Darnell Jr., and was appointed assistant professor. In 1991, he was named the head of laboratory, and in 1995 he was promoted as a professor. He was appointed the Marilyn M. Simpson Professor in 1999. He has been an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute since 1986. Dr. Friedman also directs the Starr Centre for Human Genetics, one of the country’s largest centers for the study of diseases linked to heredity.
 
 
Responsibilities and Assignments
 
His discoveries are the most significant in the area of obesity in the last quarter century. He has been widely recognized as starting the new upsurge using the modern genetic methodology to study this important clinical problem.
 
Dr. Friedman, with Jan L. Breslow and Markus Stoffel, also leads a team of Rockefeller researchers that is studying the genetic causes of a cluster of health problems called Syndrome X - obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol - in a remote population of over 3,000 people on the Micronesian island.
 
Kosrae. By analyzing the genetic inheritance patterns of the entire Kosraean population, Dr. Friedman and his colleagues hope to solve the ongoing mystery of why some people develop these diseases while others with the same lifestyle do not. Dr. Friedman is now performing clinical studies at The Rockefeller University Hospital to determine the effects of leptin on the changes that occur in the body during significant weight loss achieved by obese patients on a very low-calorie diet.
 
 
Professional Milestones
 
Dr. Friedman’s lab identified leptin, a hormonal signal made by the body’s fat cells that regulates food intake and energy expenditure and has powerful effects on reproduction, metabolism, other endocrine systems and even immune function. His discovery of leptin may represent the most significant advance in obesity research in the past 20 years. Current research in the Friedman lab focuses on the genes and neural circuits that control food intake and body weight, and leptin’s mechanism of action and its relevance to the development of obesity.
In addition to its role in regulating weight, leptin is also involved in regulating many of the physiological responses that are seen with changes in nutritional state. Studies in Dr. Friedman’s lab seek to elucidate the mechanism by which a single molecule, leptin, can modulate a complex behavior, feeding, and how leptin and other mechanisms control body weight and the pathogenesis of obesity.
In December 1994, Dr. Friedman and his colleagues identified a gene in mice and humans called obese (ob) that codes for a hormone he later named leptin, after the Greek word leptos, for thin. Mice that lack ob, and thus do not produce leptin, are massively obese, weighing as much as three times more than their normal littermates. Dr. Friedman showed that after normal and ob mice are injected with synthetic leptin, they are more active and lose weight. In addition, humans lacking leptin eat copious amounts and are massively obese, and leptin treatment of these individuals leads to massive weight loss. The dramatic effect of leptin in these patients establishes a key role for this hormone in human physiology.
 
However, the majority of obese people have very high levels of leptin circulating in their blood. Dr. Friedman’s lab went on to show that high leptin levels are associated with resistance to leptin and provided evidence that suggests that animals destined to be obese increase their production of leptin to satisfy a higher set point for weight. These observations have reframed views on the pathogenesis of obesity and suggested that the development of approaches to improve leptin response in resistant individuals could provide new treatments for obesity.
In order to identify the molecular basis of leptin resistance, Dr. Friedman is also studying the neural circuit that is activated by leptin. Leptin itself has proven to be an effective therapy for a number of other human conditions associated with low leptin levels, including several different forms of human diabetes and a condition known as hypothalamic amenorrhea. This condition, which develops in extremely thin women — often ballet dancers or long-distance runners — is one of the most common causes of infertility in women, and leptin treatment has been shown to restore reproductive function in these patients.
In his research paper – leptin and the regulation of body weight-Dr.Friedman said: “A large body of clinical and animal data has indicated that food intake and body weight are under homeostatic control. In aggregate, these data establish that leptin is a novel hormonal signal in a negative feedback loop that maintains homeostatic control of adipose tissue mass by modulating the activity of neural circuits that regulate food intake and energy expenditure. Leptin mutations in human are associated with massive obesity that is remediable by leptin treatment. Most obese patients however do not have leptin mutations.”
 
 
Awards and Honors
 
A member of the National Academy of Sciences and its Institute of Medicine, Dr. Friedman’s most-recent honors include the 2009 Shaw Prize in Life Science and Medicine, the 2007 Jessie Stevenson Kovalenko Medal, the sixth Danone International Prize for Nutrition, the 2004 Gairdner Foundation International Award and the 2004 Passano Foundation Award. He is the recipient of the Keio Medical Science Prize of Keio University in 2009.
He was awarded honorary doctorate in Molecular Genetics by the Maastricht University, The Netherlands, in 2006. He has given lectures in different parts of the world and has more than 140 publications to his credit. 
Prof. Jeffery M Friedman deserves the Hamdan Award for Medical Research Excellence for the 2009-2010 term in recognition of his discovery of leptin, a hormonal signal made by the body’s fat cells that regulates food intake and energy expenditure and has powerful effects on reproduction, metabolism, other endocrine systems and even immune function.
 
Personal Details/Academic Background
 
Born in Orlando, Florida, in July 1954, Dr. Jeffrey M Friedman is married with two daughters. Dr. Friedman graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and in 1977, at the age of 22, received his MD from Albany Medical College of Union University. After completing two residencies at the Albany Medical Centre Hospital, Dr. Friedman joined the Rockefeller as a postgraduate fellow and associate physician in 1980. In 1986, he received his PhD, working in the lab of James E. Darnell Jr., and was appointed assistant professor. In 1991, he was named the head of laboratory, and in 1995 he was promoted as a professor. He was appointed the Marilyn M. Simpson Professor in 1999. He has been an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute since 1986. Dr. Friedman also directs the Starr Centre for Human Genetics, one of the country’s largest centers for the study of diseases linked to heredity.
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