Dr. Walt Hopkins in his lab at UW Hospital and Clinics
Dr. Hopkins has been with the University of Wisconsin Department of Urology since 1984. He was born and raised in Cleveland and received his BS from the University of Notre Dame where he majored in Chemistry and Biology. He later pursued research training and obtained his PhD in Immunology at the University of Chicago.
After graduation, Dr. Hopkins taught Microbiology and Immunology at Marian College in Fond du Lac. He later accepted a staff scientist position in the UW Department of Urology, working closely with doctors David Uehling, Rod Welch (Department of Medical Microbiology) and Jess Reed (Department of Animal Sciences).
Dr. Hopkins’ research group focused on the role of bacteria, namely E. coli, in urinary tract infections (UTIs) and prostatitis. His initial federal and industry-funded research emphasized the importance of host immunity and genetics as important factors in resistance to bacterial infection and subsequent UTI. His group developed a vaccine for recurrent UTIs in women and completed two successful phase II clinical trials proving the vaccine’s efficacy.
Using mouse models for UTI, the Hopkins Lab is now addressing why certain women experience repeated infections, while others appear unaffected. Identification of various regions of host DNA have narrowed the search for potential genes for increased susceptibility to E. coli UTI in women. Future experiments are designed to determine which specific gene or genes play a key role in resistance to infection and provide a basic understanding of how infections occur. Moreover, Dr. Hopkins’ group aims to therapeutically target these potential pathways to provide the basis for further immunization strategies.
Another research area of the Hopkins Lab includes the use of Wisconsin-grown cranberries and other nutraceuticals (food products that provide health and medical benefits) in the treatment of UTIs and prostatitis. Although cranberry juice has been traditionally enjoyed by many with a potential benefit to aid in UTI prevention, investigation of the active compounds found within the whole cranberry may prove more useful.
Dr. Hopkins and his colleagues plan to determine if there is a clinical benefit in the consumption of whole cranberries versus drinking juice alone. Dr. Hopkins noted that although the active ingredients found in cranberries, proanthocyanidins, are present in juice, a more potent form is present in the whole berry.
Dr. Hopkins’ other research endeavors include collaborating with UW Health urologist Tracy Downs to characterize the virulence properties of E. coli present in patients with urinary diversions or neurogenic bladders associated with spina bifida.
Dr. Hopkins now holds the titles of Distinguished Scientist and Research Professor in the Department of Urology. He has contributed to many advancements in the field of Urology and is a driving force in the basic and translational science of infections of the urinary tract in women and men. His goals for the future are to develop new regimens for treating UTIs and prostatitis and provide a better understanding of the mechanisms involved in these conditions.