Burt Horowitz, close friend, colleague, and valued collaborator of many in the fields of smooth muscle, vascular, and cardiac research, died prematurely at the age of 48 on December 19, 2003. Dr Horowitz was Professor of Physiology & Cell Biology at the University of Nevada School of Medicine (UNSOM) and was a former member of the Circulation Research Editorial Board. He was internationally recognized for his pioneering research on the molecular biology of ion channels in smooth muscle and the cardiovascular system. Burt is survived by his wife, Nancy, and their two beloved daughters, Claire and Stephanie.
Dr Horowitz grew up in Brooklyn, New York, and received a BS degree from Rutgers University in 1976 and a MS degree from California State University, Long Beach, in 1980. He earned a PhD in 1985 in molecular biology with Richard Deonier, followed by postdoctoral training with Robert Farley, both at the University of Southern California. He joined the faculty of UNSOM as an Assistant Professor in Physiology and Cell Biology in 1989.
At the time of Burt’s move to UNSOM, little was known about the molecular basis of smooth muscle excitability. Smooth muscle cells in different organs exhibit unique excitation–contraction properties that underlie their fundamental differences in function. Burt provided groundbreaking research to elucidate the molecular properties of a variety of different types of ion channels in visceral and vascular smooth muscle. He provided seminal information on the cellular and molecular basis for gastrointestinal rhythmicity, including the roles of different types of potassium channels. His research probed the properties and molecular nature of voltage-dependent potassium channels and inwardly rectifying potassium channels in the regulation of vascular smooth muscle function.
Burt made innumerable research contributions in heart as well. In the early 1990s, he cloned the first chloride channel protein from heart, which he demonstrated was due to cardiac expression of the cystic fibrosis transmembrane conductance regulator (CFTR) protein. He later identified novel molecular candidates responsible for cell volume-regulated and calcium-activated chloride channels in heart. In addition, he provided important new molecular insights into the signaling pathways controlling function of a variety of chloride channel proteins.
Burt made enormous contributions to medical and graduate education at UNSOM and served as director of the graduate program in Cellular & Molecular Pharmacology & Physiology from 1995 to 2002. During his short tenure at UNSOM, he trained 6 PhD students and 11 postdoctoral fellows. In addition, he was an avid organizer of fundraising activities for the Nevada Affiliate of the American Heart Association and was a former director of the Association’s Research Committee. He even managed to find time to develop a pretty good game of golf.
Beyond his considerable contributions to smooth muscle and cardiac biology, Burt was a tremendous colleague and collaborator. Burt’s outgoing, insightful, and generous nature was the fuel and energy for a number of very productive collaborations within UNSOM and throughout the country and world. This is the hallmark of a great scientist.
“Burt, we’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when… ”⇓
The opinions expressed in this editorial are not necessarily those of the editors or of the American Heart Association.