Cameron Dixon, MCBB PhD candidate of the McCall Lab, was selected as the winner of the 2022 I. Alden Macchi Award for excellence in the field of regulatory biology. Read more about Cameron’s research below!

Hormones orchestrate vital physiological pathways, such as metabolism, development, and reproduction. Beyond their influence on organismal homeostasis, hormones maintain integrity of stem cell niches and tissue integrity through molecular mechanisms. The presence of hormones is not restrictive to mammals and is evolutionarily conserved across species down to microorganisms. This conservation through evolution shows the importance in understanding how hormones interact with physiology and the negative implications of what happens to homeostasis post-hormonal disruption.  To this end, the McCall Lab will be using Drosophila melanogaster to better understand how dysregulation of hormonal homeostasis impacts physiology. Drosophila possess hormonal regulation that shares many similarities with mammalian hormonal homeostasis. For example, the mammalian peptide hormone, insulin, is present in Drosophila. In Drosophila, it is known as Drosophila Insulin-like Peptide (DILP). Other major hormones that are intimately connected to DILP are ecdysone and juvenile hormone (JH); which function similarly to that of mammalian sex steroids and growth hormones, respectively. All three of these major hormones are not only involved in their own canonical pathways but also influence each other. To fully understand how these hormones effect physiology once homeostasis is dysregulated, the lab will be examining the effects of hormonal perturbations on physiology. Perturbations will be completed using two different methods: genetic and physiological perturbations. Genetic perturbations will use the Gal4-UAS system while physiological perturbations will be caused via traumatic injury (TI). TI has been shown to effect organismal homeostasis and often can lead to the progression of several pathologies, including neurodegeneration, diabetes, and reproductive consequences. These pathologies are often associated with dysregulation of respective hormones making TI attractive to understand how global damage can lead to an upset in hormonal homeostasis. Preliminary results have shown consequences to physiology through malformation of wings and increased wing venation, decreased survival, temperature sensitivity, and apoptotic phenotypes in reproductive tissues. Further investigation into these consequences are currently being completed to understand the effects of perturbing major hormones (DILP, ecdysone, JH) and their effects on physiological homeostasis and hormonal crosstalk.

This award was established by the late I. Alden Macchi, Professor and former Interim Chairman in the Department of Biology. Dr. Macchi received his PhD in Endocrinology from BU in 1954. Professor Macchi’s research contributed, among other things, many important observations regarding the mechanisms of steroid hormone biosynthesis in the adrenal glands.

Congratulations, Cameron!