From auto parts to cell parts  pg. 2

With the late Jason Morrow, M.D., Roberts discovered a series of compounds called isoprostanes that are produced when free radicals attack the lipid building blocks in cell membranes. This discovery has made it possible for researchers to reliably detect and monitor oxidative stress—something that hadn’t been possible before.

“Measuring isoprostanes has been shown to be far and away the most accurate way to assess oxidative stress status in vivo,” Roberts said. “This has allowed us to define a fundamental role for free radicals in the pathogenesis of a remarkably diverse, large number of diseases.”

Isoprostanes have been used to implicate free radicals in atherosclerosis, neurodegenerative diseases, the normal aging process, and other diseases, suggesting value for anti-oxidant therapeutics, a subject of research in many laboratories.

In 2006 Roberts received top honors for his research: the Earl Sutherland Prize for Achievement in Research from Vanderbilt University and the Discovery Award from the Society for Free Radical Biology and Medicine.

In June 2007, he received the Distinguished Alumnus Award for Achievement from the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine. Joining Roberts at the banquet table in Iowa City was “Doc.” It was the first time the two had seen each other in more than 40 years.

“If he hadn’t sparked my interest in science, I would be running our family’s auto parts companies,” Roberts said, adding with a smile, “how boring.”

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