BAR HARBOR — With its new paradigm for conducting science in the 21st century – a paradigm based on comparative biology and transdisciplinary collaboration – Mount Desert Island Biological Laboratory (MDIBL) is changing and flourishing.
“MDIBL can only endure if it continues to build programs and projects, and the staff is not afraid to push the boundaries,” said Kevin Strange, MDIBL’s director, at the annual meeting last Thursday.
For much of its 114 years, MDIBL has been a seasonal institution where scientists from universities and research institutes around the world came to conduct science in the summer and to use readily available marine organisms. Today, the lab is a year-round research institute that not only is striving to be the best but is creating a sustainable niche that builds on its collective history, said Dr. Strange. In his three years as director, Dr. Strange has recruited four faculty members for the Kathryn Davis Center for Regenerative Biology and Medicine.
One of these, Aric Rogers, who studies whether the aging process can be slowed or reversed, is bringing with him three years of funding. Two years ago, Dr. Rogers received a five-year $1 million grant to fund two years of postdoctoral research and three years as an independent researcher.
One example of comparative biology and transdisciplinary collaboration that Dr. Strange cited is reMAINE Healthy, a collaboration among scientists at MDIBL and The Jackson Lab and physicians and researchers at Maine Medical Center in Portland. The collaboration builds on the lab’s long history of significant advances in kidney research and is being carried on from bench to bedside, said Dr. Strange.
Ron Korstanje, a Jackson Lab scientist, recently identified genes in mice that might be involved in chronic kidney disease. To test all the genes in a model organism like the mouse can take years and millions of dollars. Dr. Korstanje is collaborating with Hermann Haller, a kidney specialist from the Hanover Medical Center in Germany, and the Haller research group at MDIBL. They screened the candidate genes in zebra fish, a simpler model organism and one that allows researchers to identify genes in just a few months and for much less money, said Dr. Strange. Physicians at the Maine Medical Center with the help of patients with chronic kidney disease are looking to see if markers for these genes can lead to better diagnosis and treatment.