Big problems for small lungs

Babies born too early, with immature lungs, often require mechanical ventilation to help them breathe. But that can irritate and inflame their delicate lung tissues, leading in some cases to chronic lung disease. Researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center are working on ways to avoid this complication.  read article

Islets of youth

In the not-too-distant future, cells taken from patients with diabetes will be “re-programmed” in the laboratory to create new insulin-producing beta cells that potentially can cure their disease. It sounds like science fiction, but researchers are quickly learning the genetic keys to this developmental path.  read article

The fine art of brain development

It takes more than a hammer and chisel to shape the grandest sculpture of them all, the human brain. At least half the genome (10,000 genes or more) may be required. Equally surprising: development never stops. The living brain never achieves a “final” form.  read article

The lub-dub of a healthy heart

Valves in action give the heart its characteristic lub-dub sound. When they fail, the results can be fatal. What if scientists could build replacement heart valves from patients’ own tissues? The hypothesis may be “outrageous,” but according to Vanderbilt researchers, it just might work.  read article

The vessel of life

The ductus arteriosus (DA) is a temporary vessel which, in the fetus, bypasses the uninflated lungs. It should close after birth, but too often it doesn’t, particularly in preterm infants. Surgery is often required, but there may be a medical solution.  read article

A complex infection

Inflammation triggered by infection can, in preterm infants, lead to destruction of the intestinal lining. There is evidence that probiotics (helpful bacteria) can protect against this potentially fatal condition; the challenge is to prove it.  read article

Trudi Schüpbach and Eric Wieschaus: A shared passion for nature’s truth

Princeton developmental biologists Eric Wieschaus and Trudi Schüpbach, who are husband and wife, have shared more than their work in the laboratory and a home life raising three daughters – they are of one mind when it comes to preserving the “purity” of scientific truth.  read article

The scientist in society

Internationally known reproductive biologist S.K. Dey advocates “a million scientists march” on Washington to sound the alarm about regulatory impediments and dwindling research support that are slowing the pace of progress. If the situation doesn’t improve, he warns, scientists may become “an endangered species.”  read article

‘Placental clock’ sets human birth timing


It comes as no surprise to Roger Smith, M.B.B.S., Ph.D., that birth timing would be under hormonal control.

“I’m a hormone specialist,” says the director of the Mothers and Babies Research Centre Endocrine Unit at John Hunter Hospital in Newcastle, Australia. “I think everything has to do with hormones.”

Smith and his colleagues have been tailing reproductive hormones for more than two decades. In 1995, they reported in Nature Medicine that corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) is produced by a “placental clock” that controls the length of human pregnancy.  read article

Nature’s operating system – an essay by Christopher V.E. Wright, D.Phil.

An essay by Christopher V.E. Wright, D.Phil., director of the Vanderbilt University Program in Developmental Biology  read article

The power of animal models

The march of biomedical science during the past century owes much to a handful of humble creatures, notably the fruit fly, the frog, the worm, the mouse – and recently the zebrafish.

The common fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, is one of the most-studied organisms on earth, largely because it matures from fertilized egg to adult in a matter of days and is easy to grow and manipulate.  read article

Choosing sides

The brain carefully conceals its lopsided nature. While it appears outwardly symmetrical, certain functions, like language, are localized preferentially to one side of the brain or the other.

“And because the brain and mind are inextricably linked – the mind is derived from the function of the brain – presumably there are also a number of structural asymmetries as well,” says Josh Gamse, Ph.D., assistant professor of Biological Sciences and Cell & Developmental Biology at Vanderbilt.  read article

The next generation

A unique program at Vanderbilt University connects high school students with scientists. For one graduate, it was a life-changing experience.  read article