Professors Ehud Razin and David E. Fisher

Scientists – In Their Own Words
Professor Ehud Razin and Professor David E. Fisher discuss their collaboration.

Professor David E. Fisher is with the Dermatology Department, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Harvard University.  Professor Ehud Razin is with the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Institute for Medical Research-Israel-Canada, The Hebrew University-Hadassah Medical School.

How did your collaboration begin?

EHUD: First, let me give you some background.  MITF and STAT3 are two of the most distinctive transcription factors found in melanocytes and mast cells.  For many years, our laboratories, both separately and, in collaboration, have been carrying out research on the role of these factors in survival, differentiation, growth and immunological activation in these cells. Our collaboration started eight years ago when we published our findings on the role played by a unique protein, PIAS3, in MITF transcriptional activity regulation in mast cells. Since Professor Fisher from Harvard is a leading researcher in this field, he was naturally interested in my research.

DAVID:     Our collaboration began when Professor Razin visited me during a trip to Boston, because he knew we had a common interest in the transcription factor called MITF. He was studying MITF activity in mast cells/allergy, whereas I was studying it in pigment cells (melanocytes).

How does working collaboratively contribute to the progress of this project and what do you learn from each other?

EHUD: Approaching the subject from different angles has enhanced our work and allowed us to branch out in new directions. As a practicing physician, Prof. Fisher attempts to extend our basic research findings to MITF- associated malignant diseases.  As a mast-cell expert, I look for their relevance to allergy and asthma. We communicate regularly by phone and by email. Our annual meetings, when we have a chance to sit together and discuss our progress and plans for the coming year, are very important for our collaboration.

DAVID: We quickly realized that we brought complementary concepts and technologies to our respective studies, permitting us each to share ideas and accelerate progress in understanding MITF’s activities in both mast cells and melanocytes.

How is the project coming along?

EHUD: It is progressing very nicely. Our collaboration seems to be providing an in-depth understanding of MITF function in a variety of cellular systems.

What is the future of your research?

DAVID: It is always hard to be certain, but the field of our joint study has been scientifically very rich. I believe there will be greater and greater opportunities to translate the molecular discoveries from our labs into more translational applications that are pertinent to patients.

What impact might your findings have on the world at large?

EHUD: Our findings are having an enormous impact in this field. The potential inhibition of the activities of these two transcription factors by PIAS3 and related peptides is expected to lead to the development of new drugs. This would have great potential if our findings can be generalized to other cell types.  Our research helps us appreciate how combining basic science and clinical observations can lead to the development of novel therapies.

DAVID:  The studies on mast cells could impact on new strategies for treatment of allergies. The studies on melanoma could impact on new clinical strategies for melanoma prevention or treatment of advanced disease.

Do you find it more worthwhile to have a partner working on the same effort -- how and why?

EHUD: It is definitely more worthwhile when the collaboration is as effective and productive as ours is. Also, if we were working on similar projects, but separately, we would not share information until our results were published, which would seriously hamper the progress we have made as collaborators.

DAVID: Collaboration is at the core of most successful science these days. From improved technology to improved interpretation of data, productive collaborations are of enormous value in a synergistic way.