CHOP Physician Wins ASBMR Award for Bone and Mineral Metabolism Research

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by Mary Chapman |

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A renowned expert on metabolic bone disorders, including hypoparathyroidism, Michael A. Levine’s groundbreaking professional achievements earned him the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research (ASBMR) 2018 Frederic C. Bartter Award.

Levine, MD, a pediatric endocrinologist and medical director of the Center for Bone Health at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), received his award recently in Montreal. The honor is in recognition of outstanding clinical investigation in disorders of bone and mineral metabolism, and includes a $2,000 honorarium.

As a fixture in the bone and mineral research community for nearly four decades, Levine, also a faculty member at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, has led numerous breakthroughs that advance the understanding of the genetic and molecular basis of inherited bone and mineral disorders, from hypoparathyroidism to rickets and genetic bone disease.

“I would like to extend my sincere congratulations to Dr. Levine,” Joseph St. Geme, MD, CHOP’s physician-in-chief, said in a press release. “He is a world authority on metabolic bone diseases, and I am especially proud of his recent award, which reflects the many scientific breakthroughs that he has pioneered.”

He and his research teams discovered that pseudohypoparathyroidism, characterized by an inadequate response to the parathyroid hormone, and McCune-Albright syndrome, characterized by hormone excess, are opposite disorders caused by mutations in the same gene, GNAS.

This gene provides instructions to produce one component of a protein complex called G protein, which influence many cell functions by regulating the activity of hormones. While in pseudohypoparathyroidism, the gene is inactive, in McCune-Albright syndrome, it possesses a mutation that results in hormone excess.

Levine’s research has also been key in understanding the parathyroid gland’s function and development. For example, he and his team were the first to discover the role of the GCM2 gene as the basis of isolated hypoparathyroidism.

Levine also led research that identified two new forms of genetic vitamin D deficiency in patients with genetic mutations that cause vitamin D-dependent rickets, a disorder associated with impaired growth, weak bones, and skeletal mineralization. This research led to the discovery of a new mechanism for vitamin D deficiency.

He and his team are now studying the effectiveness of rifampin as a treatment for idiopathic infantile hypercalcemia patients. These patients have excessive levels of vitamin D metabolites due to mutations in the CYP24A1 gene.

Levine’s research goals include new insights into the physiology of the bone and mineral systems that regulate calcium, phosphorus, and bone strength. He also hopes to establish a therapeutic research program for hypoparathyroidism patients.

Widely published, Levine is the founding executive editor of the Journal of Clinical and Translational Science and editor of the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.

He is a member of the board of directors of the Pediatric Endocrine Society, and was a faculty member at John Hopkins Hospital for 20 years, where he also completed his residency. He served for a decade as the chief of CHOP’s division of endocrinology and diabetes.

Considered one of the best scientists and clinical investigators in academic medicine, Bartter, for whom the award is named, helped develop a treatment for congenital adrenal hyperplasia — a group of rare disorders characterized by a deficiency of one of the enzymes needed to make specific hormones — and contributed significantly to the study of hypoparathyroidism.

Past awardees include Dennis M. Black, Eric Orwoll, Socrates Papapoulos, Richard Eastell and Elizabeth Shane.

ASBMR is a professional, scientific, and medical nonprofit established to bring together clinical and experimental scientists involved in the study of bone and mineral metabolism. The 41-year-old organization has roughly 4,000 members worldwide.

The nation’s first pediatric hospital, CHOP has one of the nation’s most expansive pediatric research programs.