Masahiro Morita, Ph.D., assistant professor of molecular medicine in the Joe R. & Teresa Lozano Long School of Medicine, has received a Rising STARs Award from the UT System. The award for early-career investigators comes with a $250,000 grant.
Dr. Morita is also a member of the university’s Barshop Institute for Longevity & Aging Studies.
He was educated at the University of Tokyo. Before joining UT Health, Dr. Morita was a postdoctoral fellow at McGill University in Montreal, Quebec.
Dr. Morita’s research focuses on how obesity increases risks of cancer, and anti-cancer drugs called mTOR inhibitors, which slow the growth of cancer cells. The drugs act on a cell regulator called mTOR (Mechanistic Target of Rapamycin).
mTOR controls a process that determines how large our cells are and how many cells we have. mTOR also impacts mitochondria, which are the energy centers in our cells.
Mitochondria become elongated when mTOR activity is inhibited, Dr. Morita said. When mTOR is stimulated, these energy centers become fragmented.
The UT System Board of Regents authorized the Science and Technology Acquisition and Retention (STARs) program in 2004. Multiple types of STARs awards support enhancement of UT institutions across the state.