June 2013| ISSUE 6
LKCMedicine Appoints Professor of Developmental Biology

By Sufian Suderman

Professor Philip Ingham FRS

LKCMedicine’s global faculty continues to grow with the appointment of Professor Philip Ingham FRS, an internationally recognised expert in Developmental Biology. Amongst Professor Ingham’s many scientific achievements is the co-discovery of the Sonic Hedgehog gene, which encodes a secreted protein that controls the development of the central nervous system and limbs in the vertebrate embryo. This discovery, together with his elucidation of the signalling pathway by which cells respond to Sonic Hedgehog, has paved the way for the development of novel anti-cancer drugs that target the pathway.

Professor Ingham has been one of the pioneers of the use of the zebrafish Danio rerio as a non-mammalian model for the analysis of human embryonic development and disease. The zebrafish is ideally suited to genetic analysis, in vivo imaging and is increasingly being used for high throughput chemical screening. Recently, he has also been elected as the new President of the International Society of Developmental Biology (ISDB).

“At LKCMedicine, I plan to continue our studies of the hedgehog signalling pathway: although much has been learned over the past decade,  there is still more to discover and this new knowledge is likely to be of clinical significance. For example, although tumours are known to regress in response to the current anti-Hedeghog drugs, they can come back aggressively as they develop resistance to drugs. A better understanding of the pathway will help identify additional targets that can be targeted to circumvent this shorctoming,” shares Professor Ingham.

In a new line of research, Professor Ingham also plans to use the zebrafish as a model to study metabolic disorders, a key focus of LKCMedicine’s research. “Diet induced obesity is a major health problem and the zebrafish provides a cost effective way of modelling the effects of genetic and environmental variation on the development of metabolic disorders.”

Professor Ingham emphasised the importance of research in a modern medical school. He believes that today’s medical students will make a major contribution to future discoveries and aims to be part of the effort to develop their appreciation for research.

“Future clinical practice will be improved through a better understanding of the  molecular and cellular processes underlying disease. The best doctors will be those who keep abreast of the latest developments in this rapidly changing field,” says Professor Ingham.