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March of Dimes awards $250,000 prize to 2 scientists who pioneered advances in skin disorders

WHITE PLAINS, NY April 30, 2012 Two scientists who have revolutionized the understanding of skin biology, creating crucial advances in treating skin cancers and other diseases as well as severe burns, have been chosen to receive the 2012 March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology.

Howard Green, MD, George Higginson Professor of Cell Biology, Department of Cell Biology, Harvard Medical School, and Elaine Fuchs, PhD, Rebecca C. Lancefield Professor, Laboratory of Mammalian Cell Biology & Development, Howard Hughes Medical Investigator, Rockefeller University, will share this year's prize.

Their work pioneered innovative technologies that explain the molecular underpinnigns of skin stem cells and inherited skin disorders, including cancers and some birth defects.

"Taken together, the research of Dr. Green and Dr. Fuchs has expanded medicine's ability to diagnose and understand the basis of many skin disorders, from cancer to inherited disorders to severe burns," said Joseph Leigh Simpson, MD, senior vice president for Research and Global Programs at the March of Dimes. "Their work has saved the lives of thousands of burn patients and we hope their work with skin stem cells will lead to new ways to prevent and treat birth defects."

Dr. Green and Dr. Fuchs have worked closely together. Dr. Fuchs is a former postdoctoral fellow in Dr. Green's lab, and throughout their careers they shared their scientific findings. Many of their findings have been translated into specific treatments.

Dr. Fuchs uncovered the genetic basis of blistering skin diseases and deciphered the characteristics of skin stem cells that allow them to develop into distinct tissues and organs. She also pioneered the use of reverse genetics, which studies protein functions and then determines what diseases occur when the proteins malfunction. She studies how skin stem cells become activated to form hair and skin, how they adapt to heal wounds, and how mutations in the activation process can lead to skin cancers, such as pilomatrichomas and squamous cell carcinomas. Her pioneering work holds promise for possible therapies for baldness.

Dr. Green, considered a founding father of regenerative medicine, developed a permanent skin restoration treatment that has saved the lives of thousands of burn victims. He previously developed the first therapeutic use of cells grown in a lab. His worked laid the foundation for the discovery of genes that are responsible for genetic skin defects. He discovered that hybrid human and mouse cells lost their human chromosomes, leading to the methods used today for gene mapping.

Dr. Green and Dr. Fuchs will receive the Prize at a gala black-tie dinner and ceremony at the Fairmont Copley Plaza. They will deliver the Seventeenth Annual March of Dimes Prize Lectures at the Hynes Convention Center during the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting. CBS sportscaster Greg Gumbel, member of the March of Dimes national Honorary Board of Trustees, will host the award ceremony.

Individuals who receive the March of Dimes Prize are leaders in the field of developmental biology. Their pioneering research offers hope for prevention and treatments for some of the most serious birth defects and other human diseases.

The March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology has been awarded annually since 1996 to investigators whose research has profoundly advanced the science that underlies the understanding of birth defects. The March of Dimes Foundation created the Prize as a tribute to Dr. Jonas Salk shortly before his death in 1995. Dr. Salk received Foundation support for his work to create a polio vaccine. The prize is a cash award of $250,000 and a silver medal in the design of the Roosevelt dime, in honor of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who founded the March of Dimes.

In its 17-year history, the March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology has been the crowning glory of a distinguished research career or a stepping stone on the path toward future honors for researchers. In fact, five past March of Dimes Prize recipients have gone on to win a Nobel Prize.


Contact: Elizabeth Lynch
March of Dimes Foundation

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