PHILADELPHIA — Two professors from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania have each been awarded a two-year, $150,000 Basil O’Connor Starter Scholar Research Award by the March of Dimes Foundation. The awards recognize young investigators with promising new research related to the organization's current mission of discovering the genetic causes of birth defects.
Matthew C. Good, PhD, is assistant professor of Cell and Developmental Biology. His grant will support research on size regulation in cells and embryos. This is a crucial question because many diseases have been linked to the improper regulation of cell or organelle (specialized structures within cells) size. For example, cell size problems are associated with various cancers, infertility, type II diabetes, and reduced cardiac function. In children, abnormal cell size is linked to certain types of leukemia and microcephaly, a congenital condition associated with incomplete brain development. To help address these issues, Good developed a technology to generate synthetic cell-like compartments with adjustable size and shape. Using this system, he will examine early embryo development to better understand how changes in nucleus and cell volume can lead to alteration of cell function and subsequent development of diseases. Good received a BA in biochemistry from the University of California, Berkeley in 2003 and a PhD in biochemistry from the University of California, San Francisco in 2010. He joined the Penn faculty in 2015.
Matthew Kayser MD, PhD, an assistant professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience, specializes in issues related to sleep and mental health. His grant will support research using fruit flies to study the function of sleep in brain and behavioral maturation with the goal of addressing neurodevelopmental disorders in humans. Mechanisms underlying neurodevelopmental disorders are poorly understood, and effective therapies are limited. While sleep abnormalities are pervasive in these disorders, they are generally regarded to be one of many symptoms. However, sleep during sensitive developmental windows is required for normal structural maturation of the brain. Dysregulation of early-life sleep might therefore represent a risk factor for later neural dysfunction – and a potential point of therapeutic intervention. Studying sleep and development in fruit flies therefore has potential to yield new insights into neurodevelopmental disorders, as well as approaches and targets for novel therapies. Kayser received a ScB in neuroscience from Brown University in 2000 and an MD and PhD in neuroscience from the Perelman School of Medicine in 2009.
The March of Dimes Foundation was founded by Franklin D. Roosevelt to combat polio. Currently the funds from the organization are awarded for research to discover the genetic causes of birth defects. The Basil O'Connor Starter Scholar Research Awards were created in 1973 and named for the first March of Dimes chairman and president.
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