Allan Spradling is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator and director of the Department of Embryology. His laboratory studies the biology of reproduction particularly egg cells, which are able to reset the normally irreversible processes of differentiation and aging that govern all somatic cells—those that turn into non-reproductive tissues. Spradling uses the fruit fly Drosophila because the genes and processes studied are likely to be similar to those in other organisms including humans. In the 1980s he and his colleague, Gerald Rubin, showed how jumping genes could be used to identify and manipulate fruit fly genes. Their innovative technique helped establish Drosophila as one of the most useful organisms with which to study development, genetics, and disease.
Spradling focuses on several aspects of oogenesis—the process of forming eggs. His scientific accomplishments span a wide range of areas, but he is best known for his work on stem cells in living tissues and the “niches” or specialized microenvironments in which stem cells grow. In 1990 Spradling’s group described the first stem cell niche using Drosophila ovary tissue. He went on to define the molecular pathways that regulate stem cell behavior within their niches. His work on Drosophila stem cells and niches has helped guide mammalian stem cell research.
Among Spradling’s major, original contributions are: early demonstration of the plasticity of genomes through gene amplification; the development of P-element insertional mutagenesis as a tool for studying gene structure, function, and location; leadership in the Drosophila genome project, including genome annotation and the establishment of a freely available library of strains with specific P-element gene disruptions.
Spradling has received many awards for his work including the Gruber Foundation Medal in Genetics, 2008; M.C. Chang Award (Reproductive Biology) 2007; E.F. Conklin Medal, Society for Developmental Biology, 2003; George W. Beadle Award, Genetics Society of America, 2003;Genetics Society of America Medal, 1989; Molecular Biology Award, National Academy of Sciences, 1985;AAAS Newcomb Cleveland Prize, 1983; Passano Foundation Young Scientist Award, 1982; and Maryland Distinguished Young Scientist Award, 1982. He was president of the Genetics Society of America, 2007.
Spradling received an A.B. in physics from The University of Chicago, and a Ph.D. in cell biology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where he was also a research associate and postdoctoral fellow. Before coming to Carnegie as a staff scientists in 1980, he was a postdoctoral fellow of the Helen Hay Whitney Foundation. He became director in 1994. For more see the Spradling lab