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First steps

An affinity for eggs

Mary Delany didn't plan to spend her career studying chickens. But it turns out that chickens and humans have a lot more in common than their affection for eggs.

Of primary importance to Delany, an assistant professor of developmental genetics, is the common way vertebrates, including humans and chickens, develop. Interested in the expression and function of genes during development, Delany uses the chicken and its embryo as a model to study critical events at the molecular and cellular level in the early development of the embryo. Her research at UC Davis focuses on one of the earliest changes that occurs in both chick and human embryos, the process known as gastrulation.

"This is the stage where the primary tissue layers are formed," said Delany. "When analyzed at the molecular and cellular levels, this process has similarities with oncogenesis, the process by which cancer develops. There is rapid cell division and growth, significant tissue remodeling, and numerous changes in gene expression that control the differentiation status of particular cells."

An avian scientist in the Department of Animal Science at the UC Davis College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, Delany is one of 18 researchers associated with the UC Davis Cancer Center to receive an institutional research grant from the American Cancer Society that is matched by the School of Medicine. These grants are viewed as seed money for investigators to explore promising ideas that may eventually receive national funding.


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