1997 Award Winner Professor Dr. Helena Edlund Department of Microbiology, University of Umea, Sweden
"The additional benefits of having been awarded the prize is the stimulatory effects it has not only for yourself but for your co-workers, the graduate students, postdocs and technicians in the lab." (Helena Edlund)
The work of Professor Edlund
Professor Edlund's work is based on studies in the field of pancreas developmental biology both by herself and by her colleagues in Umea concerning the regulation of the insulin gene promoter. Among the transcription factors which regulate this particular promoter, a nuclear factor with the name of ISL1 has been identified. This factor shares homology with corresponding proteins from the nematode C. elegans. The protein is expressed in precursor of pancreatic islet cells and displays unique protein domains which are characteristic of proteins involved in developmental processes. In a recent paper in Nature, Dr. Edlund was able to demonstrate that ISL1 fulfills such a task. Using the mouse knock-out technology, she was able to show that ISL1 functions at two levels in pancreas development. It is required to build up the pancreatic mesenchyme, a cell layer necessary for producing its particular shape and form as well as for the development of islet cells, which are eventually required to produce the pancreatic hormone insulin. The work of Professor Edlund is cited not only for its particular expertise and mastery but also for its significance for beta-cell development and thus for all disease processes related to beta-cell failure, including diabetes.