The Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) is one of the world’s largest and most influential scientific organizations, representing 23 independent scientific societies and over 90,000 individual scientists. Regular readers of this blog will be aware that FASEB also takes a keen interest in educating and informing the public about the value and achievements of biomedical research. Every year FASEB presents the Excellence in Science Award to ‘recognize outstanding achievement by women in biological science’, and this year the award has been given to Professor Gail Martin of the University of California, San Fransisco, principally for discoveries she made in mice.
Gail Martin was the first scientist to isolate embryonic stem cells, a term she coined, from the mouse embryo and culture them in vitro in 1981, and demonstrated that when injected into a mouse these cells formed a type of tumor known as a teratoma (1). The production of a teratoma was very significant since these tumors contain normal cells from all three of the germ layers that give rise to every tissue in our bodies, so their presence confirmed that the cells were pluripotent. This seminal study, along with the nearly simultaneous discovery by Martin Evans and Matthew Kaufman that pluripotent stem cells derived from the mouse embryo could be grown in the mouse uterus, paved the way for the whole field of embryonic stem cell research and more recently the development of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells.
Gail Martin’s research continues to focus on the mechanisms that control early embryonic development in mice, chickens and zebrafish, with a particular focus on the role of the Fibroblast Growth Factor (FGF) family of signaling molecules. Her work is an example of basic research at its best. Mutations in FGF receptors are associated with more than a dozen congenital bone disorders (2), and it is through understanding of the fundamental processes involved in controlling development that we will be able to design effective treatments for these disorders.
We congratulate Professor Martin on this award, an award that highlights a career that has contributed a great deal to our understanding of life.
Gail Martin was not the only one to be honored last week, on Sunday our own Professor David Jentsch received the Joseph Cochin Young Investigator award by the College on Problems of Drug Dependence (CPDD). The CPDD is the largest and oldest organization for the scientific study of drug dependence and addictions in the US, whose members have made great contributions to the treatment of drug dependence, and is a World Health Organization collaborating centre for research and training. Every year the CPDD awards the Joseph Cochin Young Investigator award to an investigator under the age of 40 in recognition of their research contributions to the field of drug abuse, and this award emphasises the importance of the David’s work to future progress in treating drug addictions.
Well done to David from all your friends at Speaking of Research!
- Martin G.R. “Isolation of a pluripotent cell line from early mouse embryos cultured in medium conditioned by teratocarcinoma stem cells.” Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. Volume 78(12), Pages 7634-7638 (1981). PubMed Central: PMC349323
- Chen L. and Deng C.X. “Roles of FGF signaling in skeletal development and human genetic diseases” Front Biosci. Volume 1;10, Pages 1961-1976 (2005). PubMed: 15769677