Chairs corner July 2017

Image from Little et al., Plos Biol 2011.
July 24, 2017

Summer is the season for scientific meetings. I have recently attended several conferences in my field, developmental biology, and the old questions still resonate, albeit addressed in many cases with new technologies. How cells talk to each other across considerable distances, is still a central question. We now know cells use peptides, small RNAs, proteins, metabolites, and even mechanical signals to spread the word. However, how cells interpret these signals in a concentration dependent fashion is still largely unknown. To that end, one of the most enjoyable recent talks I heard was from Eric Wieschaus (former Yale grad student, Nobel Prize winner, and currently Squibb Professor of Molecular Biology at Princeton) who elegantly demonstrated, using genetic techniques, that nuclei can differentially respond to even slight differences in such signals. This hints at as yet unexplored mechanisms for acutely sensitive cellular responses to gradients of information—something to work towards understanding. What’s new in your field? I’m happy to feature your summaries in the next Chair’s corner!