Carnegie Mellon University
July 31, 2020

Biological Sciences Professor Receives Grant to Study the Genome

By Ben Panko

Charles EttensohnProfessor of Biological Sciences Charles Ettensohn has received a $1.2 million grant from the National Science Foundation to support his research into how an organism's genome regulates the development of its body from scratch.

"Remarkably, the entire blueprint for embryonic development is contained in the DNA sequence of the genome," Ettensohn said. "A central challenge of modern biology is to explain how this genomic information is 'decoded' to control the process of embryogenesis."

In particular, Ettensohn is interested in understanding an organism's gene regulatory network, a collection of molecules that control how and when genes are expressed. This network takes on vital importance during the development of an embryo when the structure of an organism's developing body is mapped out. Using sea urchins as a model organism, Ettensohn plans to study how this network works over the course of an embryo's developments, and how it can go wrong.

"This grant allows us to use genomics-based tools to dissect the structure and function of a model developmental gene regulatory network as a paradigm for understanding how the genome of an organism controls its anatomy," Ettensohn said.