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Doug Hilton: At home with blood cell biology

The Journal of Cell Biology
The Rockefeller University Press
Publication Date
DOI: 10.1083/jcb.1886pi
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JCB_1886pi.indd People & Ideas JCB • VOLUME 188 • NUMBER 6 • 2010754 D oug Hilton found his home in science as an undergraduate, when he took a summer job in Canberra, Australia that introduced him to the biology of blood cells. It’s a vast subject, but Hilton has explored much of it: from the cytokines that control blood cell differentiation (1) to the receptors that bind those cytokines (2), the signals those receptors set off within cells (3, 4), and the feedback mechanisms that help to regulate them (5). As a graduate student with Nick Nicola, Hilton worked to identify factors con- trolling blood cell growth—a project that unexpectedly led to the identifi ca- tion of leukemia inhibitory factor, or LIF (1). After a two-year postdoctoral stint studying the erythropoietin recep- tor with Harvey Lodish at MIT (2), Hil- ton returned home to Australia. There, a search for factors regulating cytokine signaling uncovered the suppressor of cytokine signaling (SOCS) family pro- teins (3, 4). Having recently been appointed Director of the Walter and Eliza Hall Insti- tute in Melbourne, Hilton put off adding the fi nishing touches to his new offi ce to talk with us about his career, and his scientific and personal interests. HOME EARLY You’ve spent most of your career in Australia? I suppose I haven’t ever strayed too far from home. [laughs] I still live in the town in which I grew up—although I did live abroad for two years while I did my postdoc at MIT. But I’ve always been comfortable here, a small suburb about 30 kilometers from the center of Melbourne. It was quite early on in my career, too, that I found a research subject with which I felt at home. I’ve always been interested in the genes that regulate blood cell formation, even as a third-year student in college. I remember taking a laboratory job over summer vacation where I worked on the same types of questions that I’m still working on 25 years later. I continue to fi nd them fas

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