The Center for Cell Death and Differentiation (CCDD) is the result of collaboration between Baylor Scott & White and the Texas A&M College of Medicine. The CCDD reflects the legacy of Dr. W. Roy Smythe, former chair of the department of surgery. Now, the CCDD refelcts the ongoing vision of Dr. Harry Papaconstantinou, chair of the department of surgery, that the institution provides not only a forum of exchange for scientists, health care professionals and academics, but also a link between the research agenda, clinical translation and effective new therapies.

Key to the life of any organism is the microcosmic drama carried out at the level of the cell, the basic living unit of all tissues and organs. Whether in brain cells that direct the body's hand to notate the next Mozart sonata, liver cells that deal with the composer's excesses, or blood cells that carry genius as their cargo, understanding the life cycle of the cell is crucial to scientists in their search to improve and understand life itself.

The mission of the Center for Cell Death and Differentiation is to develop greater understanding of the processes that control the survival, differentiation or death of normal and diseased cells, and through cutting-edge research, education and multidisciplinary collaboration, translate our understanding into tangible results.

Of that life cycle, the study of control over life and/or death of each individual cell forms the basis for understanding the survival of every living organism — human, animal or plant. This study of cell death has become a major focus of the scientific community, making cell death and differentiation a field of growing interest and significance, one that crosses all disciplines and surpasses all boundaries to study the very building blocks of life. A testament to the importance of these studies is the fact that the Nobel Prize for Medicine for the year 2002 was awarded for work in this area.

So while at first glance, the name of our center would appear to be negative or macabre, the work of our scientists, clinicians, research technicians, graduate students, physicians, residents and staff, is actually the work of life itself: how cells die when they should not, as in the case of blood loss or shock; how cells do not die when they should, as seen in the unbridled metastasis of cancer; how they become what they are supposed to be, or differentiate, as in the case of stem cells that are destined to become brain cells or to grow into muscle tissue.

Cell death and differentiation are about understanding and repairing the processes of life. Ours is a focus that encompasses life and death on a cellular level and its banner has been taken up by countless scientists and medical professionals dedicated to mitigating life and death at the most basic scale — that of human existence.

Our objectives in accomplishing the mission are:

  • To create an environment of collaboration and sharing among the members of our center;
  • To promote the development of out-of-the-box thinking by fomenting an open-minded and multidisciplinary exchange of ideas and experiences;
  • To facilitate communication among our scientists and physicians and expose them to a network of major scientists outside our institutions, in Texas, our nation and internationally;
  • To serve as a stimulus and incubator for young scientists and encourage their efforts through contacts, scholarship opportunities, and exposure;
  • To educate and involve physicians in the advances of basic science made here in their midst and create a synergy with them to develop solutions to the problems they face in the clinic;
  • To facilitate opportunities for funding, whether the sources be government, private or institutional
  • To keep our members abreast of the scientific world as it affects them: news, advances, publications our members or students have had, opportunities they have had to speak at conferences, symposia, presentations; and awards or announcements involving our members;
  • To market our accomplishments to a broader audience and make the community, academia and business aware of the work we do;
  • To provide guidance on the development of technology transfer and how to recognize and handle intellectual property.