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March of Dimes Awards $250,000 Prize to Leaders in Understanding Embryonic Development
Date:5/5/2008

HONOLULU, May 5 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Two scientists who helped explain how embryos develop and form limbs, the brain, and other organs have been chosen to receive the 2008 March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology.

Philip A. Beachy, PhD, and Clifford J. Tabin, PhD will share the 2008 March of Dimes Prize for their pioneering work that has expanded our understanding of how hedgehog genes and their protein signals guide the formation of the brain, limbs, spinal cord, axial skeleton and other organs during embryonic and fetal development. Their work has become a model for how communication between cells directs the course of animal development.

The March of Dimes Prize is a $250,000 cash award and a silver medal in the design of the Roosevelt dime, in honor of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who founded the March of Dimes. The Prize will be awarded to Dr. Beachy and Dr. Tabin at a gala black tie dinner and ceremony at the Moana Surfrider here.

"Hedgehog genes have a wide-ranging role in mammalian development," said Michael Katz, MD, senior vice president for Research and Global Programs at the March of Dimes. "Dr. Beachy's and Dr. Tabin's studies have provided crucial insight into how some birth defects and some cancers develop. The results of their research have expanded our knowledge of how these genes control the division of adult stem cells."

The genes are named hedgehog because when mutations that caused the gene to lose function first were identified (in fruit flies), they gave the embryos a prickly appearance. The gene's protein signals play a crucial role in how cells organize themselves in the body and form specific organs.

For example, these signals are involved in why the heart is located on the left and not the right side of the body; why we have two eyes and nostrils instead of one; why the thumb is different from the little finger; and why different types of neurons form in specific locati
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SOURCE March of Dimes
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