Biography

Dr. Towler obtained his medical degree and Ph.D. in biochemistry from Washington University, St. Louis, where his thesis work focused upon protein modification by covalent fatty acid acylation (N-myristoylation). He completed his medical residency and endocrine/metabolism fellowship at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, and is a board-certified internist and endocrinologist.

Dr. Towler brings to UTSW expertise in the endocrine physiology of bone and vascular disease that synergizes with our Institution’s strengths in patient-oriented, bench-to-bedside translational research.  Before joining UT Southwestern, Towler was the Lang Professor of Medicine in the Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism, and Lipid Research at Washington University and also served as Chief, Division of Bone and Mineral Diseases for a decade.  

In addition to his career in academic medicine, Towler spent four years in the pharmaceutical industry, and is co-inventor of novel, patented selective androgen receptor modulators (SARMs) with potential clinical applications in treatment of musculoskeletal frailty. His clinical interests emphasize the diagnosis and treatment of bone and mineral disorders.  

Dr. Towler is currently the Principal Investigator for projects supported by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the American Diabetes Association, and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund. His  research focuses upon Wnt signaling in arterial calcification (hardening of the arteries) and associated protein arginine methylation/deimination regulatory relays as potential therapeutic targets in aortic and peripheral artery disease. Dr. Towler’s research has been recognized by the Charles E. Culpeper Foundation (1996), the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research (Fuller Albright Award 2000), and the American Society for Clinical Investigation (elected in 2004).  He currently serves on the editorial board of Arteriosclerosis Thrombosis and Vascular Biology.  A former regular member of the NIH Skeletal Biology Development and Disease (2004-2008) and Atherosclerosis and Inflammation of the Cardiovascular System Study Sections (2010-2014), he also served as a member of the External Advisory Panel to the Illuminating the Druggable Genome Consortium for the NIH Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS; 2014- 2016).  

Dr. Towler’s interests outside of biomedicine include his family, kayaking, and fly fishing. 

Education

Medical School
Washington University School of Medicine (1989)
Residency
Washington University/Barnes Hospital (1991), Internal Medicine
Fellowship
Washington University/Barnes Hospital (1992), Metabolism

Research Interest

  • Bone and Mineral Disease
  • Cardiovascular calcification
  • Protein Arginine Methylation / Demethylation
  • Transcriptional regulation
  • Wnt signaling

Publications

Featured Publications LegendFeatured Publications

Dkk1 and MSX2-Wnt7b signaling reciprocally regulate the endothelial-mesenchymal transition in aortic endothelial cells.
Cheng SL, Shao JS, Behrmann A, Krchma K, Towler DA Arterioscler. Thromb. Vasc. Biol. 2013 Jul 33 7 1679-89
Arterial calcification and bone physiology: role of the bone-vascular axis.
Thompson B, Towler DA Nat Rev Endocrinol 2012 Sep 8 9 529-43
Vascular calcification and aortic fibrosis: a bifunctional role for osteopontin in diabetic arteriosclerosis.
Shao JS, Sierra OL, Cohen R, Mecham RP, Kovacs A, Wang J, Distelhorst K, Behrmann A, Halstead LR, Towler DA Arterioscler. Thromb. Vasc. Biol. 2011 Aug 31 8 1821-33
Activation of vascular smooth muscle parathyroid hormone receptor inhibits Wnt/beta-catenin signaling and aortic fibrosis in diabetic arteriosclerosis.
Cheng SL, Shao JS, Halstead LR, Distelhorst K, Sierra O, Towler DA Circ. Res. 2010 Jul 107 2 271-82
Runx2 trans-activation mediated by the MSX2-interacting nuclear target requires homeodomain interacting protein kinase-3.
Sierra OL, Towler DA Mol. Endocrinol. 2010 Jul 24 7 1478-97
Inflammation and the osteogenic regulation of vascular calcification: a review and perspective.
Shao JS, Cheng SL, Sadhu J, Towler DA Hypertension 2010 Mar 55 3 579-92
Identification of anabolic selective androgen receptor modulators with reduced activities in reproductive tissues and sebaceous glands.
Schmidt A, Harada S, Kimmel DB, Bai C, Chen F, Rutledge SJ, Vogel RL, Scafonas A, Gentile MA, Nantermet PV, McElwee-Witmer S, Pennypacker B, Masarachia P, Sahoo SP, Kim Y, Meissner RS, Hartman GD, Duggan ME, Rodan GA, Towler DA, Ray WJ J. Biol. Chem. 2009 Dec 284 52 36367-76
Transcriptional regulation of SM22alpha by Wnt3a: convergence with TGFbeta(1)/Smad signaling at a novel regulatory element.
Shafer SL, Towler DA J. Mol. Cell. Cardiol. 2009 May 46 5 621-35
Msx2 exerts bone anabolism via canonical Wnt signaling.
Cheng SL, Shao JS, Cai J, Sierra OL, Towler DA J. Biol. Chem. 2008 Jul 283 29 20505-22
Aortic Msx2-Wnt calcification cascade is regulated by TNF-alpha-dependent signals in diabetic Ldlr-/- mice.
Al-Aly Z, Shao JS, Lai CF, Huang E, Cai J, Behrmann A, Cheng SL, Towler DA Arterioscler. Thromb. Vasc. Biol. 2007 Dec 27 12 2589-96

Books

Featured Books Legend Featured Books

Vitamin D and Cardiovascular Medicine. In Vitamin D

Towler DA and Clemens T (2005). San Diego, CA, Elsevier

Physiological Actions of PTH and PTHrP: Vascular, Cardiovascular, and CNS Biology. In The Parathyroids: Basic and Clinical Concepts (3rd Edition)

Towler, DA (2015). London, UK, Elsevier / Academic Press

Vitamin D: Cardiovascular Effects and Vascular Calcification. In Vitamin D (3rd Edition)

Towler, DA (2011). San Diego, USA, Elsevier / Academic Press

Vascular Disease and the Skeleton. In Primer on the Metabolic Bone Diseases & Disorders of Mineral Metabolism (8th Edition)

Towler, DA (2013). Hoboken, NJ, Wiley-Blackwell

Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor and Osteogenic-Angiogenic Coupling. In Principles of Bone Biology, 3rd Ed.

Towler DA (2008). San Diego, CA, Academic Press

Honors & Awards

  • J.D. and Maggie E. Wilson Distinguished Chair in Biomedical Sciences, UT Southwestern Medical Center, Internal Medicine - Division of Endocrinology
    Endowed Chair (2015)
  • University of Texas System Faculty STARS Program Award, UT Southwestern Medical Center
    Translational Research Award (2015)
  • Guest Editor, Circulation Research Series of Pathobiology of Calcific Vasculopathy and Valvulopathy
    Invited Guest Editor (2011)
  • The 12th Annual John G. Haddad, Jr., MD Memorial Lecture, University of Pennsylvania
    Honorary Visiting Lectureship (2009)
  • Bayard D. Catherwood Lecturer and Visiting Professor, Emory University
    Honorary Visiting Lectureship (2006)
  • Elected, American Society for Clinical Investigation
    Physician-Scientist Honorary Society (2004)
  • Ira M. Lang Endowed Chair in Internal Medicine, Barnes-Jewish Hospital at Washington University Medical Center
    Endowed Chair (2004-2012)
  • Fuller Albright Award, American Society for Bone and Mineral Research
    Young Investigator Award (2000)
  • Charles E. Culpeper Medical Science Scholar
    Career Development Award (1996-1999)

Professional Associations/Affiliations

  • American Society for Clinical Investigation (2004)
  • American Heart Association (2003)
  • The Endocrine Society (1995)
  • American Society for Bone and Mineral Research (1993)