2011 Hudson Prize awarded to Matthew Gibson

Associate Investigator and developmental biologist Matthew C. Gibson, PhD, has been named the recipient of the 2011 Hudson Prize by the M.R. and Evelyn Hudson Foundation. Through the Hudson Prize, the Texas-based foundation recognizes and supports the work of outstanding early career scientists at the Stowers Institute for Medical Research.

Gibson, whose research focuses on early embryonic development, received a one-time grant of $50,000 to expand his research into the control of cell division in epithelial cell layers. Epithelia are closely packed and highly organized tissue layers that cover all internal and surface areas of the body.

Throughout his scientific career, Gibson has been particularly interested in understanding animal development through the lens of epithelial architecture. How are polarized cell layers constructed and maintained, for example, and how do they influence developmental processes? As a postdoctoral fellow, he discovered an unexpected role for the signaling molecule BMP in controlling the shape and fate of epithelial cells that form fruit fly wings.

From there he turned his attention to a very different venture: to define mathematical principles governing how polygon-shaped cells pack into rapidly proliferating epithelial sheets. Surprisingly, no single set of genes regulates this process. Instead, Gibson’s work shows that simple mathematical rules govern the shape and sidedness of dividing epithelial cells.

At the Stowers Institute, Gibson’s lab has continued to focus on epithelial biology, recently demonstrating the mechanism underlying nuclear movements during epithelial cell division. Separate lines of inquiry have explored the control of epithelial growth, and have also demonstrated that polygonal cell packing can influence the spatial orientation of cell division in tissues as different as fruit fly larvae and cucumber epidermis.