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Harry Jarrett
lab team
Top: Professor Harry Jarrett
Bottom: Jarrett with his laboratory staff

UTSA First-Year Faculty: Harry Jarrett, UTSA Lutcher Brown Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry

By Lydia Fletcher
Special Projects Writer, UTSA '07

(Aug. 22, 2007)--Harry Jarrett, the UTSA Lutcher Brown Distinguished Professor of Biochemistry, earned a Ph.D. degree from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a bachelor of science degree from the University of South Carolina.

He was a postdoctoral fellow at the Mayo Clinic and the University of California at San Diego. Jarrett joined the UTSA chemistry faculty in 2006.

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LF: Where were you before you came to UTSA?

HJ: I was at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis. I had been there for 16 years. I was vice chairman of the Department of Molecular Sciences. I got burned out being an administrator, and kind of missed undergraduate education.

LF: Have you enjoyed the teaching atmosphere here at UTSA?

HJ: Yes, I have. The teaching is pleasurable -- it's dealing with the administrative duties that's cumbersome.

LF: What sort of research are you working on?

HJ: It's two different things. The first is we're trying to figure out a bit more about how genes get turned on and off, and that involves a group of proteins called transcription factors. The other project is working on muscular dystrophy.

To elaborate, let me give an example. For any cell in your body to divide, you need a protein called c-jun, which is a transcription factor. It turns on the genes that make all of the proteins such as enzymes, structural proteins, etcetera, which will be necessary for cell division. If cells can't divide, you can't repair wounds, reproduce, have an immune system to protect you or much of anything else and you would die. So, in a way, transcription factors control the most basic functions necessary for life.

Muscular dystrophies are the most common genetic diseases in the world. MDs not only cripple children but kill them at an early age. The cause of many MDs is known and are caused by genetic mutations in a complex of proteins called the DGC. However, we don't really know what the DGC normally does and why it is important. Our lab is trying to discover what it normally does.

LF: And will you continue to work on that in the future, working with muscular dystrophy and with genes? Have you had much of an opportunity to do that here at UTSA?

HJ: Yes, we're doing pretty well. I have nine scientists in my group, so even if I'm tied up with administrative work, they aren't.

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