National Academy of Sciences
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Election Year: 2007
Primary Section: 22, Cellular and Developmental Biology
Secondary Section: 26, Genetics
Membership Type: Member
The common theme of the research in my laboratory is an attempt to understand the genetic basis by which form and structure are regulated during vertebrate development. Investigations, using both the chick and mouse as model systems, investigate this problem on a variety of levels, from the early patterning of developmental fields to the cellular events of organogenesis. For example we have studied limb development from the perspective of the establishment of anterior-posterior, proximal-distal and dorsal-ventral positional information, and connected those early axial patterns to later specification of tendons, muscles, joints within the skeletal element and differential bone growth. Similarly we have major efforts directed towards understanding left-right asymmetry from the initial breaking of symmetry through a cascade of signals, to cellular changes directing the asymmetric looping of the primitive tube. Other studies have focused on formation of the heart valves and patterning of the axial structures derived from the somites.
In addition, we have a major interest in the way developmental programs are modified through evolution to produce differences in morphology. Evolutionary studies have addressed the changes in gene activity responsible for the morphological variation seen in the shapes of the beaks of Darwin's Finches, genetic studies of the changes seen in fish when they adapt the novel environment found in caves, and the changes in skeletogenic pathways responsible for the unique limb morphology seen in hopping rodents such a jerboas.