Cell biologist dies

Gerd Maul, an accomplished artist and scientist at the linkurl:Wistar Institute;http://www.wistar.org/default.cfm in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, passed away last Monday (23rd August) of a heart attack at the age of 70. Gerd Maul Widely recognized for his discovery of new nuclear structures called "nuclear dots" in the early 1990s, Maul turned to vaccinology later in his career, pursuing a novel cytomegalovirus vaccine. The multi-faceted researcher was also an linkurl:admired sculptor and arti

Aug 27, 2010
Megan Scudellari
Gerd Maul, an accomplished artist and scientist at the linkurl:Wistar Institute;http://www.wistar.org/default.cfm in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, passed away last Monday (23rd August) of a heart attack at the age of 70.
Gerd Maul
Widely recognized for his discovery of new nuclear structures called "nuclear dots" in the early 1990s, Maul turned to vaccinology later in his career, pursuing a novel cytomegalovirus vaccine. The multi-faceted researcher was also an linkurl:admired sculptor and artist;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/37015/ who regularly showed at prestigious galleries in Philadelphia and beyond. "He had an incredible enthusiasm for his science, and a way of looking at things that other people didn't see," says linkurl:Louise Showe,;http://www.wistar.org/research_facilities/showe/research.htm an immunologist at Wistar and Maul's long-time colleague and friend. Born in 1940, Maul grew up in a post-World War II Germany, receiving his bachelor's and master's degrees in biology from the Technical University of Darmstadt, Germany. He completed his PhD at the University of Texas in Austin, followed by a postdoc at what was then the M.D. Anderson Hospital in Houston. Maul joined the faculty at Wistar after working briefly as an assistant professor at the Temple University School at Medicine in Philadelphia. He began his scientific career as an expert electron microscopist before delving into nuclear biology and vaccines. "He had a wonderful eye for form," says Showe -- a skill that later translated to his artistic endeavors. In 1991, Maul published his linkurl:discovery of nuclear dots,;http://www.the-scientist.com/2006/12/1/40/1/ structures within nuclei of animal cells, also called nuclear domain 10 or PML bodies. Ever the artist, Maul once described looking into the microscope at the "funny dots" as gazing into "a star spangled sky." The function of nuclear dots is still up for debate. Maul's hypothesis for their function, still a leading contender among scientists, was that the structures are protein depots for enzymes that enable cells to cope with stress and invading pathogens. Maul's later work supported that idea that nuclear dots play a role in a cell's internal defenses, especially against viruses. From there, Maul took a foray into vaccine development, applying for funds to develop a vaccine against cytomegalovirus (CMV), a typically benign virus that can cause severe disease in infants and people with weakened immune systems. He set out to see if murine CMV, which can enter human cells but can't replicate there, could be used as the basis for a human vaccine. Though he did not complete the work, Maul's research carries on at Wistar, where a young investigator continues to develop a mouse model for the CMV vaccine, says Showe. Maul's other great passion was art, though he drew no such division in his own mind. "He saw art in his science and science in his art," says Showe. Once, when the university was prepared to trash an old electron microscope, Maul instead took it home and installed it in his backyard as art.
Maul worked in many types of media, including photography, silk-screen printing, and sculpture. His work has been exhibited at the Institute for Contemporary Art at the University of Pennsylvania and Highwire Gallery in Philadelphia, among others. See a slideshow presentation of his work linkurl:here.;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/home/36890/ In recent years, Maul also took up writing, including memoirs and fiction. "I hold him up as proof that the creative human spark can know many outlets," said linkurl:Russel Kaufman,;http://www.wistar.org/research_facilities/kaufman/research.htm president and CEO of Wistar, in a statement. "Gerd Maul was a talented, thoughtful man whose cool and pleasant demeanor belied the passion that boiled beneath." In addition to art, science and writing, Maul was addicted to travel, backpacking as a young man across Europe and Asia and visiting exotic locales with his wife, Ursula. Recently, Maul visited the Galapagos Archipelago, returning home to enthusiastically show off pictures of the unique plants and animals on the islands, recalls Showe. Maul passed away a month short of retirement at Wistar. But that is no reason for sadness, says Showe. "Gerd was not someone who was going to wait until he was retired to do things," she adds. "He was enjoying life all along. More of us should live that way." Maul is survived by his wife and two children, Monika and Julius.
**__Related stories:__***linkurl:A Long Shot on Cytomegalovirus;http://www.the-scientist.com/2006/12/1/40/1/
[1st December 2006]*linkurl:Developing a hybrid CMV vaccine;http://www.the-scientist.com/article/display/36977/
[1st December 2006]*linkurl:Two sides or more;http://www.the-scientist.com/news/display/37015/
[30th November 2006]