Department of Oncological Sciences, University of Utah
Salt Lake City, UT
Published January 27, 2008
Susan Mango is a biologist who synthesizes approaches from genetics, genomics, ecology, and embryology to address one of the most challenging questions in developmental biology — how complex organs form. Though much effort has been devoted to understanding how cells differentiate from a pluripotent state into specialized tissues (e.g., nerve, muscle, blood vessels), little is known about how these tissues interact and integrate into cohesive, functioning organs. Using the nematode digestive system as a model, Mango has identified a single gene, pha-4, as being crucial to coordinated development of this creature’s pharynx. Mutations in this gene affect many different cell types in different regions, but each has a critical role in the developing pharynx. Using a combination of microarray techniques and computational algorithms, Mango has teased out the mechanism of action of the PHA-4 protein as a promoter for a host of other genes involved in pharynx development. Her results solidify the hypothesis that organ formation in the worm has a distinctly genetic basis. Through her multifaceted exploration of the integrative biology of nematode development, Mango provides critical insights into the complex process of organogenesis.
Susan Mango received a B.A. (1983) from Harvard University and a Ph.D. (1990) from Princeton University. She completed a postdoctoral research fellowship (1990-1995) in the Laboratory of Molecular Biology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Since 1996, she has been a faculty member in the Department of Oncological Sciences at the University of Utah, where she is currently a professor. Her articles have been published in such journals as Nature, Science, Cell, and PLoS Biology.
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