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Announcing the 2012-13 Annette and Henry Baich Award Winner:
David Jennings

"Developmental- and Tissue-Specific Regulation of Thyroid Hormone Actions"

The Annette and Henry Baich Award is given annually to the most outstanding STEP grant proposal for basic research conducted within the parameters of the Sigma Xi Society. Disciplines include the physical sciences, life and medical sciences, earth science, engineering, psychology and mathematics.

Dr. Jennings is Assistant Professor of Biological Sciences in the SIUE College of Arts and Sciences. He received his Ph.D. in 1997 from the University of Colorado with a specialty in the area of animal anatomy. Dr. Jennings is the author of 11 research publications and has been invited to give seven academic presentations. His S.T.E.P. proposal titled "Developmental and Tissue Specific Regulation of Thyroid Hormone Actions," stood out among the 49 applications submitted to the program.

Thyroid hormone plays a critical role in the development of an egg into an adult in a wide range of vertebrates, including fish, amphibians, and mammals. In frogs, thyroid hormone regulates the transformation of an aquatic tadpole into a terrestrial frog by binding to specific proteins (thyroid receptors) regulating gene activity. Dr. Jennings' proposed project employs a novel approach (vacuum filtration) to directly examine changes in thyroid hormone receptor proteins in a variety of tissues during amphibian development and metamorphosis. This project could shed a better light on the understanding of how a single hormone can cause some tissues to degenerate (tail), others to remodel (liver/intestine), and still others to form from scratch (limbs).

The significance and novelty of Dr. Jenning's proposed experiments is that they will directly test the connection between thyroid hormones and receptor proteins, which will shed light on the metamorphic responses to circulating thyroid hormone. In addition, since components of the thyroid axis are highly conserved among vertebrates, the protocols developed in the project can be used to address the evolution of thyroid hormone control of development in a wide range of organisms, including mammals.
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