2003 Award Winner Prof. Dr. Silvia Arber Biozentrum University of Basel, Friedrich-Miescher-Institute Basel, Switzerland
The work of Prof. Dr. Silvia Arber
Prof. Dr. Silvia Arber receives this award for her research work on the molecular mechanisms controlling the assembly of the spinal reflex circuit. In her work since she has proven that the final branching steps, the arborization (not arberization) immediately prior to establishing real connections, are induced peripherally, by the target muscle cells. Her prove consisted of identifying the genes responsible for this process. She actually used the technology of knock-out mice to show that in mice lacking these genes and their corresponding proteins, axons fail to branch appropriately resulting in a marked defect in neuromuscular innervation. She could also show that members of the same gene family, the ETS family, also form connections between sensory and motor neurons. Finally she could demonstrate that the growing axon itself can induce differentiation in a target cell. A factor excreted by a growing axon thus can induce differentiation or maturation of muscle cells.To summarize her achievements: She has proven that the growth of axons from motor neurons requires protein signals from cells along the trajectory, even signals from the target cell. In turn, signals from the growing axon can induce the target cell to differentiate and to mature. Many of these conclusion built on hypotheses based on experiments of other investigators. It was Silvia Arber however who proved these hypotheses through ingenious experimental approaches.Silvia Arber has been awarded many prizes along her career trajectory, among them in 2000 the EMBO Young Investigator award and, most recently, the award of the Latsis Foundation in Geneva. In the list of distinguished awardees of the Eppendorf Young Investigator awards she is number nine. We are looking forward to hear from her next year when we celebrate the tenth anniversary and to see whether and how her career pathway leads into targets which eventually identify an Arber dynasty.