Dame Frances Ashcroft, Professorial Fellow of Trinity College, has been awarded the Jacob Henle Medal for her contribution to physiology.
The Medal is awarded by the Georg-August University in Gottingen, Germany, and recognizes outstanding, medically relevant scientific achievements in physiology and medicine. Gottingen University is one of Germany’s oldest institutions of higher learning and the award is one of Germany’s most prestigious for scientists.
Professor Ashcroft said: ‘It is a very great honour to receive this medal which recognises not only my work but that of my team and our collaborators. And it is a very particular pleasure to be recognised by the University of Gottingen where I have so many friends and colleagues who have given me much advice, help and friendship over the years.’
The award recognises Dame Frances’s work in advancing understanding of insulin secretion and a type of diabetes that develops in the first months of life. She has discovered the missing link connecting an increase in the blood sugar level after a meal to secretion of the hormone insulin. The link was identified as a protein known as the KATP channel. Mutations in the KATP channel genes cause a rare inherited form of diabetes (neonatal diabetes), and her work has helped enable patients with this disorder to switch from insulin injections to drug therapy. She was also honoured for her commitment to interdisciplinary and generally understandable scientific communication as well as her special commitment as a mentor to young scientists.
The award honours Friedrich Gustav Jacob Henle (1809-1885), an anatomist and physiologist who taught at the University of Göttingen for 33 years. Henle published the first descriptions of the structure and distribution of human epithelial tissue and of the fine structures of the eye and brain including Henle’s loop of the kidney. His work is considered by many to have laid the foundation for modern pathology. The medal was presented on Monday 15 June by Professor Blanche Schwappach.