Shu Chien

63rd APS President (1990-1991)
Shu Chien
(b. 1931)

Shu Chien was installed as the 63th President of the American Physiological Society at the close of the Society's spring meeting in Washington, DC.

Chien, a professor of bioengineering and medicine at the University of California, San Diego, succeeds Vernon S. Bishop.

A 23-year member of APS, Chien has served on the editorial boards of the American Journal of Physiology, the Journal of Applied Physiology, and the American Journal of Physiology: Heart and Circulatory Physiology. He also has been an active contributor to the Society's educational programs, including the slide-tape program on peripheral circulation and the Handbook of Physiology: Circulation. In 1985, he was elected to the APS Council by the membership and last ear was elected President-elect.

Chien comes to the APS presidency with years of experience serving scientific societies, including president of the Microcirculatory Society, president of the American-Chinese Medical Society, and chairman of the steering committee of the North American Society of Biorheology. He also helped Academia Sinica in Taiwan to establish the Institute of Biomedical Sciences.

The 58-year-old Chien is the fifth president from California and the first of Asian origin to be elected president of the 104-year-old Society. He was born in Peiping (now Beijing) and grew up in Shanghai.

Chien went to the National Peking University for his premedical education and then the medical school of the National Taiwan University. After completing his medical education and an internship, Chien decided to devote his career to basic science research and teaching.

He was awarded a Li Foundation fellowship to come to the United States to study physiology at Columbia University's College of Physicians and Surgeons. Under the advisorship of Dr. Magnus Gregersen, he performed his doctoral dissertation research on the role of the sympathetic nervous system in compensatory mechanisms to hemorrhage.

Following his graduation in 1957, Chien remained at Columbia, where he served for a year as an instructor and, in 1958, was promoted to assistant professor of physiology. During the late 1950s and early 1960s Chien continued his research on hemorrhage and shock (including that induced by x-irradiation, histamine, endotoxin, and pericardial tamponade) with emphasis on the roles of neurohumoral regulation, blood volume, and capillary permeability. In the course of these studies, he discovered that changes in flow properties of the blood also may play a significant role in some of these conditions.

By 1964, when he was promoted to associate professor, Chien's research emphasis had shifted to the mechanisms controlling blood viscosity. In such studies, biophysical and engineering principles and techniques are used to study physiological problems. As a result, he began working closely with engineering colleagues, developing novel interdisciplinary approaches at the interface of biology, medicine, and engineering.

In 1969 he was appointed director of the Division of Circulatory Physiology and Biophysics and promoted to the rank of full professor. By the early 1970s Chien had become a leading authority in blood rheology, largely because of his elucidation of the fundamental mechanisms governing blood viscosity, including red cell deformation and aggregation. He began applying such basic knowledge to investigate rheological abnormalities in a variety of diseases, including sickle cell, paraproteinemias, acute myocardial infarction, hypertension, and surgical conditions. For his contributions in these studies Chien was awarded the first Fahraeus Medal of Clinical Hemorheology in 1981.

While applying blood rheology to clinical investigations, Chien also began to probe into microrheology of blood at the levels of cells and membranes and into the influence of blood rheology on blood flow in vivo, especially microcirculation. In recognition of these accomplishments, Chien was given the Landis Award in Microvascular Research in 1983.

For the last five years, Chien's research has extended into the molecular biology of red blood cell membrane proteins and the molecular basis of cell-cell interactions. In pursuing these studies at the molecular level, Chien has continued to keep his focus on the more global problems at the organ-system level. His long-term goal in working on the molecular structure of erythrocyte membrane skeletal proteins is to provide the information needed to deduce the microarchitecture of the membrane skeleton, so he can proceed to interpret microrheological findings on single cells and, eventually, flow and deformation in the circulation in health and disease.

Chien also is performing experiments on the effects of blood cell properties on regional blood flow distribution in intact animals. The ultimate goal is to experimentally manipulate the molecular structure of the erythrocyte membrane skeleton and to determine the consequence on blood flow in vivo.

Chien's research career is characterized by his learning and application of new concepts and technology to solve fundamental physiological problems. His interdisciplinary approach to physiological research on the role of blood cells in blood flow spans a wide spectrum of objects ranging from molecules to cells, tissues, organs, and the whole body. The scheme he published in his Landis Award lecture to represent this approach is the basis of a diagram used by APS to summarize modern physiological research activities.