Allan Spradling offers input to The Scientist on a paper about female Japanese rice fish producing sperm....
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Dr. Matthew P. Scott President, Carnegie Institution for Science Carnegie Astronomy is also part of Carnegie Science and the study of all living species. From ancient single-celled organisms evolved...
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A Carnegie Evening Lecture Dr. Allan Spradling, Director Department of Embryology, Carnegie Institution for Science Eggs are uniquely important animal cells. Only eggs can support the development of...
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Mitotic proteins take on editorial duties in this writeup of new work from Yixian Zheng's lab in The Journal of Cell Biology....
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Cells often face low-oxygen conditions at night. When this happens, some organisms such as the single-cell alga Chlamydomonas are able to generate cellular energy from the breakdown of sugars...
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Nutrition and metabolism are closely linked with reproductive health. Several reproductive disorders have been linked to malnutrition, diabetes, and obesity. Furthermore, fasting in numerous species...
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Baltimore, MD— Nutrition and metabolism are closely linked with reproductive health. Several reproductive disorders including polycystic ovary syndrome, amenorrhea, and ovarian cancer have been...
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Baltimore, MD—The newest member of the staff at the Carnegie Department of Embryology, Junior Investigator Zhao Zhang, received the prestigious Larry Sandler Memorial Award at the 56th Annual...
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The Spradling laboratory studies the biology of reproduction. By unknown means eggs reset the normally irreversible processes of differentiation and aging. The fruit fly Drosophila provides a favorable multicellular system for molecular genetic studies. The lab focuses on several aspects of egg...
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The Marnie Halpern laboratory studies how left-right differences arise in the developing brain and discovers the genes that control this asymmetry. Using the tiny zebrafish, Danio rerio, they explores how regional specializations occur within the neural tube, the embryonic tissue that develops into...
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The Zheng lab studies cell division including the study of stem cells, genome organization, and lineage specification. They study the mechanism of genome organization in development, homeostasis—metabolic balance-- and aging; and the influence of cell morphogenesis, or cell shape and...
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The Donald Brown laboratory uses  amphibian metamorphosis to study complex developmental programs such as the development of vertebrate organs. The thyroid gland secretes thyroxine (TH), a hormone essential for the growth and development of all vertebrates including humans. To understand TH,...
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Frederick Tan holds a unique position at Embryology in this era of high-throughput sequencing where determining DNA and RNA sequences has become one of the most powerful technologies in biology. DNA provides the basic code shared by all our cells to program our development. While there are about 30...
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There is a lot of folklore about left-brain, right-brain differences—the right side of the brain is supposed to be the creative side, while the left is the logical half. But it’s much more complicated than that. Marnie Halpern studies how left-right differences arise in the developing...
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Baltimore, MD— Eggs take a long time to produce in the ovary, and thus are one of a body’s precious resources. It has been theorized that the body has mechanisms to help the ovary ensure that...
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Meredith Wilson, a postdoctoral associate in Steve Farber’s lab at the Department of Embryology, has been awarded Carnegie’s thirteenth Postdoctoral Innovation and Excellence Award. These...
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Washington, D.C.—The Carnegie Institution for Science and the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS) have been granted United States Patent 8,283,329, entitled, “Genetic inhibition of...
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Explore Carnegie Science

Kamena Kostova, courtesy Navid Marvi, Carnegie Institution for Science
October 1, 2019

Baltimore, MD— Carnegie biologist Kamena Kostova has been selected for the Director’s Early Independence Award from the National Institutes of Health, which is designed to provide “exceptional junior scientists” with the opportunity to “skip traditional post-doctoral training and move immediately into independent research positions.”

Kostova is one of 13 recipients of the 2019 Early Independence Award. The recognition is part of a suite of four that comprise the NIH Director’s High-Risk, High-Reward Research Program, which honors “highly innovative biomedical or behavioral research proposed by extraordinarily creative scientists.

GDNF repairs aged muscle stem cells courtesy of Liangji Li.
September 30, 2019

Washington, DC— An age-related decline in recovery from muscle injury can be traced to a protein that suppresses the special ability of muscle stem cells to build new muscles, according to work from a team of current and former Carnegie biologists led by Chen-Ming Fan and published in Nature Metabolism.

Skeletal muscles have a tremendous capacity to make new muscles from special muscle stem cells. These “blank” cells are not only good at making muscles but also at generating more of themselves, a process called self-renewal. But their amazing abilities diminish with age, resulting in poorer muscle regeneration from muscle trauma.

The research team—

This image captures the bright blue light (chemiluminesc ence) emitted by the NanoLuc protein in LipoGlo zebrafish. It is is provided courtesy of James Thierer.
July 31, 2019

Baltimore, MD—A newly developed technique that shows artery clogging fat-and-protein complexes in live fish gave investigators from Carnegie, Johns Hopkins University, and the Mayo Clinic a glimpse of how to study heart disease in action. Their research, which is currently being used to find new drugs to fight cardiovascular disease, is now published in Nature Communications.

Fat molecules, also called lipids, such as cholesterol and triglycerides are shuttled around the circulatory system by a protein called Apolipoprotein-B, or ApoB for short. These complexes of lipid and protein are called lipoproteins but may be more commonly known as “bad cholesterol.”

One analogy for understanding the mathematical structure of the team's work is to think of it as foam being simplified into a single bubble by progressively merging adjacent bubbles.
July 2, 2019

Baltimore, MD—How do the communities of microbes living in our gastrointestinal systems affect our health? Carnegie’s Will Ludington was part of a team that helped answer this question.

For nearly a century, evolutionary biologists have probed how genes encode an individual’s chances for success—or fitness—in a specific environment.

In order to reveal a potential evolutionary trajectory biologists measure the interactions between genes to see which combinations are most fit.  An organism that is evolving should take the most fit path. This concept is called a fitness landscape, and various mathematical techniques have been developed to

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Approximately half of the gene sequences of human and mouse genomes comes from so-called mobile elements—genes that jump around the genome. Much of this DNA is no longer capable of moving, but is likely “auditioning”  perhaps as a regulator of gene function or in homologous recombination, which is a type of genetic recombination where the basic structural units of DNA,  nucleotide sequences, are exchanged between two DNA molecules to  repair  breaks in the DNA  strands. Modern mammalian genomes also contain numerous intact movable elements, such as retrotransposon LINE-1, that use RNA intermediates to spread about the genome. 


The Zheng lab studies cell division including the study of stem cells, genome organization, and lineage specification. They study the mechanism of genome organization in development, homeostasis—metabolic balance-- and aging; and the influence of cell morphogenesis, or cell shape and steructure,  on cell fate decisions. They use a wide range of tools and systems, including genetics in model organisms, cell culture, biochemistry, proteomics, and genomics.


In mammals, most lipids, such as fatty acids and cholesterol, are absorbed into the body via the small intestine. The complexity of the cells and fluids that inhabit this organ make it very difficult to study in a laboratory setting. The goal of the Farber lab is to better understand the cell and molecular biology of lipids within digestive organs by exploiting the many unique attributes of the clear zebrafish larva  to visualize lipid uptake and processing in real time.  Given their utmost necessity for proper cellular function, it is not surprising that defects in lipid metabolism underlie a number of human diseases, including obesity, diabetes, and atherosclerosis.

The Gall laboratory studies all aspects of the cell nucleus, particularly the structure of chromosomes, the transcription and processing of RNA, and the role of bodies inside the cell nucleus, especially the Cajal body (CB) and the histone locus body (HLB).

Much of the work makes use of the giant oocyte of amphibians and the equally giant nucleus or germinal vesicle (GV) found in it. He is particularly  interested in how the structure of the nucleus is related to the synthesis and processing of RNA—specifically, what changes occur in the chromosomes and other nuclear components when RNA is synthesized, processed, and transported to the cytoplasm.

Staff Associate Kamena Kostova joined the Department of Embryology in November 2018. She studies ribosomes, the factory-like structures inside cells that produce proteins. Scientists have known about ribosome structure, function, and biogenesis for some time. But, a major unanswered question is how cells monitor the integrity of the ribosome itself. Problems with ribosomes have been associated with diseases including neurodegeneration and cancer. The Kostova lab investigates the fundamental question of how cells respond when their ribosomes break down using mass spectrometry, functional genomics methods, and CRISPR genome editing.

Kostova received a B.S. in Biology from the

The first step in gene expression is the formation of an RNA copy of its DNA. This step, called transcription, takes place in the cell nucleus. Transcription requires an enzyme called RNA polymerase to catalyze the synthesis of the RNA from the DNA template. This, in addition to other processing factors, is needed before messenger RNA (mRNA) can be exported to the cytoplasm, the area surrounding the nucleus.

Although the biochemical details of transcription and RNA processing are known, relatively little is understood about their cellular organization. Joseph G. Gall has been an intellectual leader and has made seminal breakthroughs in our understanding of chromosomes, nuclei and

The mouse is a traditional model organism for understanding physiological processes in humans. Chen-Ming Fan uses the mouse to study the underlying mechanisms involved in human development and genetic diseases. He concentrates on identifying and understanding the signals that direct the musculoskeletal system to develop in the mammalian embryo. Skin, muscle, cartilage, and bone are all derived from a group of progenitor structures called somites. Various growth factors—molecules that stimulate the growth of cells—in the surrounding tissues work in concert to signal each somitic cell to differentiate into a specific tissue type.

The lab has identified various growth

Allan Spradling is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and director of the Department of Embryology. His laboratory studies the biology of reproduction particularly egg cells, which are able to reset the normally irreversible processes of differentiation and aging that govern all somatic cells—those that turn into non-reproductive tissues. Spradling uses the fruit fly Drosophila because the genes and processes studied are likely to be similar to those in other organisms including humans. In the 1980s he and his colleague, Gerald Rubin, showed how jumping genes could be used to identify and manipulate fruit fly genes. Their innovative technique helped establish Drosophila