Peter Reddien named Searle Scholar

April 11, 2006

Tags: Reddien LabAwards + Announcements

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (April 11, 2006) — Whitehead Member Peter Reddien is one of 15 scientists to be awarded the 2006 Searle Scholarship. Each awardee receives $240,000 over a period of three years to support their research. Reddien was chosen out of 173 applicants representing over 130 universities and research institutions.

“I am delighted to be selected as a Searle Scholar and by the opportunity it provides my laboratory for the exploration of our ideas,” says Reddien.

“In selecting the Scholars, the Board looked for individuals who have already demonstrated innovative research with the potential for making significant contributions to biological research over an extended period of time,” according to a statement released by the Searle Scholars Program.

Reddien, who is also an assistant professor of Biology at MIT, focuses on the planarian Schmidtea mediterranea, a flatworm whose ability to regenerate cells and tissues is virtually unrivaled in nature. When cut in half, the flatworm can regrow both a new tail and a new head. In fact, if a small fraction of the flatworm’s body is excised, an entirely new animal can develop from this tiny piece. The flatworm accomplishes regeneration through neoblasts—cells that share many characteristics with embryonic stem cells and can differentiate into essentially all cells found in adult animals.

So far, Reddien has identified genes necessary for neoblasts to regenerate tissue. Recently, he discovered the mechanism of a key gene involved in the process, a gene that has a homologue in humans. This research provides a deeper understanding of both regeneration and stem cell biology.

Reddien is now the fifth Whitehead Member to receive this honor. Others include Terry Orr-Weaver (1988), David Page (1989), Hazel Sive (1992), and David Bartel (1997).

Since the program began in 1981, 408 Searle Scholars have shared over $73,380,000 in grants. The funds that support the awards come from trusts established under the wills of John and Frances Searle.

Written by David Cameron.


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