The 53 Midwest Society for Developmental Biology Meeting was held at the Michigan League from Sunday to Tuesday.

The three-day meeting drew 169 attendees representing 28 universities, hospitals and institutions.

Deborah Gumucio, a cell and developmental biology professor who was involved in organizing the meeting, said the University was chosen as a host site this year and next year due to its strong community of developmental biology scientists.

“We have a very strong community of developmental biology situated at the University’s Medical School, the Dental School as well as the MCDB on campus, so it was pretty easy to get a strong interest to for a broad-based support to host the meeting,” Gumucio said.

Developmental biology is a research field that studies how organisms grow and develop. Rafi Kopan, pediatrics professor from University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, emphasized the importance of studying developmental biology in his keynote lecture Sunday evening. Kopan cited the Barker’s hypothesis, an idea that many chronic conditions such as hypertension have a developmental origin.

Kopan studies how nephrons, or kidney cells, develop and mature. Consistent with the Barker’s hypothesis, his group has found that a lower number of mature nephrons is associated with hypertension and diabetes in mice.

In addition to keynote speakers, the meeting featured presentations from faculty members, postdoctoral scholars and graduate students from different institutions. Gumucio said the oral presentations were chosen from submitted abstracts.

“The primary goal was to get really good stories to tell,” Gumucio said.

Rackham student Justine Pinskey presented her thesis work Monday morning on a phenomenon called Hedgehog signaling, which is crucial in proper development of limbs and organs, and how defects in the signaling pathway can result in various health problems such as birth defects and cancer.

“Without proper Hedgehog signaling, you wouldn’t exist!” Pinskey wrote in an e-mail to The Michigan Daily. “We can thank this pathway for giving us ten fingers and ten toes, two eyes instead of just one in the middle of our head, lungs that are properly branched, intestines that absorb nutrients … the list goes on and on!”

Pinskey also wrote that she attended the meeting to learn more about the diverse research topics in developmental biology and to network with other scientists.

“Developmental biology is a fascinating discipline with a wide range of research topics,” Pinskey wrote. 

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