In this section, we highlight the human side of biomedical investigation, putting a few questions to a researcher at DMS-DHMC.
Christopher Lowrey, M.D.
Professor of Medicine and of Pharmacology and Toxicology
Lowrey is a hematologist who researches new treatments for people with blood diseases like sickle cell anemia and thalassemia.
Can you describe your research?
Most people with sickle cell anemia and thalassemia live in disadvantaged parts of the world and typically die during childhood. Both diseases are caused by mutations in the ss-globin gene. The quirky part is that we're all born with a replacement gene, expressed in the fetus but turned off at birth. If we could figure out a way to turn on that replacement gene, we could cure the disease. So we're looking to develop new drug strategies that will turn these genes on but be safe for people to use.
What got you interested in science?
I'm a child of the Cold War era, when there was a real push for science education, and I caught the bug when I was only five years old. Later, when I was a kid, I used to do little experiments on my own. One time I read about a plant virus called tobacco mosaic virus. So I got some cigarettes and took out the tobacco and rubbed it on a plant to see if I could get the virus into the plant.
What famous person, living or dead, would you most like to meet?
The German physicist Max Planck. He was one of the fathers of modern physics and quantum mechanics. I think it would be really cool to sit down with him and hear how he came up with all of his ideas. What made him think that energy could come in little packets, for example? That idea just revolutionized physics.
What is the quality that you most admire in other people? And most despise?
The one I most admire is concern for other people and most despise is dishonesty.
What's your favorite nonwork activity?
I like to spend time with my family hiking, biking, cross-country skiing, and kayaking.
Where would you most like to travel?
Eastern Europe—Czechoslovakia, Romania, and maybe down into Turkey. It seems to be still a land of mystery.
What historical event would you most like to have been present at in person?
The recent start-up of the Large Hadron Collider in Europe. I would love to have seen it in action, when they actually collided the particles.
Finish this sentence: If I had more time I would . . .
Visit my parents. They live in Florida and I don't get to see them as much as I'd like, so if you told me I had next week off, I'd book a flight.
What do you like most about teaching?
I love interacting with students. I have students all the way from high school, to undergraduates, to medical students, graduate students, and fellows. I teach not just in classes but in the laboratory, in the clinic, and on the wards. That may be my favorite part about being a researcher—having students around.
What's the last book you read?
The Age of the Unthinkable by Joshua Ramo. It extrapolates from modern physics and mathematics to view the world as a completely unpredictable place, arguing that we need a new paradigm to think about politics and government.
What's hot in your field right now?
I think we'll be able to sequence the genome of leukemia cells in the next few years. It's going to really help guide our treatment and prognosis. There's also a convergence from all the different fields of microbiology and genetics that will make huge differences in the next decade.
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