Bone Disease Research Garners High Honor for UH Prof

Dan Wells, professor of biology and biochemistry, was awarded the Multiple Hereditary Exostoses (MHE) Coalition’s Humanitarian Scientific Achievement Award at a ceremony on September 18, 2005 in New York.

Selected from an outstanding pool of international scientists, Wells is the first recipient of the award and was chosen by the MHE Coalition for having repeatedly demonstrated his commitment to their cause.

Multiple hereditary exostoses is an inherited disorder of bone growth. People who have MHE grow exostoses, or bony bumps, on their bones, which can vary in size, location, and number. The long bones (legs, arms, fingers, and toes), as well as the pelvis and shoulder blades are the most commonly affected.

Wells first became interested in MHE in 1987, and he began what would become a long-term research effort, with former UH colleague Dr. Michael Wagner, to understand a small area on the long arm of chromosome 8.

In the past 5 years, Wells and his research team have worked toward understanding the molecular and biochemical nature of MHE by trying to understand the role the EXT1 gene plays in the physiology of normal and abnormal bone growth.

“A noted scientist doing extensive research on MHE, Dr. Wells has shared his expertise and knowledge whenever asked and volunteered to take on the huge task of co-organizing the second International MHE Conference,” said an MHE Coalition spokesperson, in a statement issued by the organization. “He has been a supporter of our organization from its very early days, always available to answer our questions and to give valuable advice.”

Wells received his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from California State University in Sacramento and his Ph.D. in cellular, molecular, and developmental biology from Indiana University in Bloomington. In 1986, he jointed the faculty in the department of biology and biochemistry at UH, where he has remained for the past 19 years.

In 1987, Wells became a founding member of the UH Institute for Molecular Biology, and in 2000, he became Chair of the Department of Biology and Biochemistry. In 2004, Wells was elected President of the UH chapter of the scientific honorary society Sigma Xi.