Organogenesis: to determine the mechanisms underlying the normal development of organ primordia against which aberrations of these processes can be better understood
The Organogenesis Program supports research in several areas including development of the limb and the establishment of the heart, lung, pituitary, kidney, pancreas, and gut. Decades of basic research have revealed striking genetic similarities during organogenesis in animal model systems as diverse as Drosophila, chick, mouse, Xenopus, and zebrafish. Over the past decade, the ability to detect spatial and temporal patterns of gene expression and to test gene function by targeted disruption or misexpression of specific genes has enhanced our understanding of the roles of genes during the development of organs and organ systems. Events like specification of organ primordia, inductive signaling, outgrowth, and patterning are routinely investigated at the level of molecular genetic mechanisms. An emergent theme from these studies is the conserved role of growth factors, signaling molecules, and signaling pathways across vastly different animal species and organs. An outstanding question being addressed more recently relates to how these genetic processes are linked to tissue level organization and key cellular processes in order to modulate morphogenesis.
This work is truly expanding our conceptual framework for understanding morphogenesis and has implications for the translation of basic research findings to the clinical setting potentially improving diagnosis, clinical management, and therapeutics of structural birth defects.