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Despite the humorous name, hedgehog signalling cascades are central to embryonic development and has been implicated in the development of a number of diseases, including cancer.

The downstream cascades of the Hedgehog pathway have considerable overlap with those of the Wnt pathway, acting through CK1 and Gsk3. Like Wnt. Hedgehog is an extracellular signalling molecule that translates messages into the cell through the Patched receptor on the cell membrane. This stage is often in conjunction with another molecule, Megalin and its corresponding receptor, Smo. The extra-cellular nature of Hedgehog allows gradients of the molecule to be establishing, which gives hedgehog potential to influence growth and other cellular activity on a location basis, which is central to development at the embryonic stages.

The downstream impacts of hedgehog are numerous – the development of the adrenal  cortex and peripheral nervous system structures such as the olfactory receptors.

Because of its role during development, Hedgehog is hard to modulate for therapeutic ends. However, the wealth of knowledge that studying it brings has found its action in disease later in life, which transforms it into a lucrative therapeutic target. Its role in cancer makes it the focus of much research and attention.

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