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On Friday, November 16, 2018, fourteen Columbus area residents will become part of the TEDxColumbus community when they present their talks for On the Edge.


Meet Dr. Jianjie Ma:

Serendipity leads researcher to magical discovery


By Wendy Cornett


The medical community is no stranger to happy accidents. The discoveries of penicillin, pacemakers, X-rays and anesthesia were all unintentional outcomes that revolutionized medicine as we know it. One Columbus professor is on the cutting edge of converting another experimental fluke into what is quite possibly nothing short of a medical miracle.


“Pure serendipity” is how Dr. Jianjie Ma described his breakthrough discovery of a protein he dubbed “pixie dust” for its almost otherworldly abilities in the area of cell repair.


The OSU professor and his team of laboratory researchers were actually studying the physiology of how the heart muscle works under normal conditions when the protein, which circulates in the human body naturally, made itself known. Dr. Ma, passionate about his purpose, seized the opportunity to further investigate the finding and the potentially life-saving applications of concentrated quantities of the newly discovered protein.


His focused immersion in tangential discoveries is driven by his desire to, as he put it, “get into the deep” and uncover what is behind what we see every day.


“When serendipity comes, you have to have the passion to move to the next level,” he said. “Our goals as researchers are to impact our students and affect the next generation; to advance the biology of physiology; and where there is opportunity, we need to translate our findings into therapeutic applications.”


In other words, Dr. Ma leaves no stone unturned. The NIH-funded researcher has been prominently and widely published on the topics of muscle physiology, aging, cardiovascular disease, cystic fibrosis, apoptosis (cell death) and cancer biology. He has written hundreds of articles and holds 10 patents.


But perhaps the most impactful lesson he shares with the next generation at Ohio State regards something that is purely ethereal but curiously powerful – much like pixie dust.


“Whatever you want to be, whether you want to be an executive, an entrepreneur, a researcher or a physician, it takes passion. Do the extra work,” he insisted. “If you don’t have the passion, you will stop short.”


Dr. Ma is a professor and the Karl P. Klassen Chair of Thoracic Surgery at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. Dr. Ma leads a multidisciplinary team of research in cardiovascular disease, muscle physiology, cancer biology and regenerative medicine. He discovered a gene that can repair membranes in the body, accelerating healing in patients with tissue damage. Dr. Ma serves as a study section member for the National Institutes of Health, holds multiple grants from the National Institutes of Health and the Department of Defense, and has over 200 publications in scientific journals, including Nature, Science and Science Translational Medicine. He holds 10 patents and is founder of a university spin-off biotechnology company.


What to know more? Purchase tickets through Ticketmaster or by calling the CAPA Box Office at 614-469-0939.