Professor wins grants for genetic research

June 01, 1993

Bill Long and his Western Maryland College colleagues went fishing, and the National Science Foundation took the bait.

The WMC professor of biology is co-principal investigator on two of the foundation's grants and principal investigator on another that, combined, total more than $500,000.

Dr. Long, with co-researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Purdue University, is examining the genetic makeup of zebra fish, using the techniques of biotechnology.

Dr. Long began the genetic-engineering project two years ago, traveling to MIT to do most of the work, but he has created custom-made fish in his Lewis Hall lab at Western Maryland, too.

The foundation grant is apportioned: MIT gets $360,000, WMC gets $125,000, and Purdue $60,000. Western Maryland's portion, received May 15, is expected to support the research until October 1996.

The money awarded Western Maryland will pay Dr. Long's summer salary, finance laboratory equipment and provide travel funds for him to commute to the two other research sites.

The developmental biologist also has funds for WMC student researchers, who will receive a stipend plus room and board for the summer. His hope is to support two students each summer.

His student colleagues this year are class of '94 biology majors, Susanne Laws of Baltimore and Janet Fenhagen of Dameron in St. Mary's County.

Although the research is taking place in Maryland, Massachusetts and Indiana, all involved are working toward the same goal, said Dr. Long, which is: "identifying and isolating for study the genes responsible for organizing the positional information of vertebrate embryos."

Positional information is the data "that cells require to tell them where to go during embryonic development, where they need to be to do their job," he said. "We want to find the mutations that mess up embryonic development in some important way."

Eventually, their studies of zebra fish genetics may reveal information on human birth defects.

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