December 20, 1996

Hogan elected to Institute of Medicine

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Her research into growth factors and embryonic development helped Brigid Hogan, Ph.D., land a prestigious honor.

Hogan elected to Institute of Medicine

Brigid L.M. Hogan, Ph.D., professor of Cell Biology at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, has been elected to the prestigious Institute of Medicine.

Election to the Institute of Medicine is granted to only approximately 20 researchers per year and is based on service to the medical community. The institute counts only 544 active members and 582 senior members worldwide.

Hogan is the third member of the VUMC faculty to be inducted into the institute, joining Drs. Mildred T. Stahlman, Professor of Pediatrics and Pathology, and John A. Oates Jr., Thomas F. Frist Professor and Chair of Medicine.

Hogan's current work includes research into growth factors and embryonic development.

"Developmental biology is the study of how tissues and organs arise from the single fertilized egg and how cells interact with one another to coordinate the growth and differentiation of complex structures such as the eye and hand," said Hogan.

One of the most exciting discoveries of the past decade is that genes that regulate embryonic development are very similar among all living creatures, so that studies of insects and worms – simple organisms that develop rapidly – are highly relevant to human diseases.

Indeed, mutations in genes closely related to those that control the development of fly embryos have recently been shown to play a role in human disorders such as basil cell carcinoma and pancreatic cancer.

Other genes that are key players in processes behind many human health problems were first identified from studies of simple organisms. Some of these genes affect health problems such as infertility, birth defects, diabetes, kidney disorders and neurological disorders like Parkinson's disease and Huntington's disease, Hogan said.

Recent research has also shown that genes and proteins used by embryos to build tissues, such as the blood, bone and skin systems, are activated in adults to repair and remodel damaged and defective organs.

Hogan was one of the first researchers to apply molecular biology and genetics to the mouse embryo. Her lab has discovered several new inducing molecules, potent proteins that mediate cell interactions in the embryo and instruct cells how to differentiate.

The team has also produced mouse mutants useful for understanding and treating human diseases.

Through publications, meetings, workshops, and service on committees at the National Institutes of Health, Hogan has been a strong proponent of developmental biology's importance in relation to medical problems.