Cyclopamine and Hedgehog Signaling: Chemistry, Biology, Medical Perspectives



When Odysseus left the devastated city of Troy after ten years of siege he could not foresee the perils he still had to face. The encounter with the cyclops, a giant with only one eye placed in the middle of its forehead, was doubtlessly one of the creepiest and most dangerous of his adventures. In the end, Odysseus could only escape with the help of a sheep. Whether Homers cyclops was inspired by the observation of terribly malformed neonates remains speculative. However, when sheep herders in Idaho in the middle of the 20th century faced an increasing number of cyclops-like sheep in their herds, a unique cascade of chemical, biological, and medicinal discoveries was initiated. This Minireview tells this story and shows its impact on modern biomedical research.