Born in 1909, Rita Levi-Montalcini was a Jewish/Italian cell biologist was born on April 22, 1909 in Turin, Italy. Her father was an electrical engineer as well as a talented mathematician and her mother was a painter and a mother of four. Rita was the youngest and had a twin sister and an older sister. She also had an older brother who was a well known Italian architect and a professor at the University of Turin. She attended college and medical school at her native Turin University.
She completed her schooling just prior to the outbreak of WWII.
Due to her Jewish/Italian background, the option to conduct research in academia was not possible. She decided that she would set up a laboratory right in her bedroom and conducted her research there. Her inspiration to study chick embryos came from Viktor Hamburger, a German embryologist, who had written an article on the effects of limb extirpation in chick embryos. Soon after the beginning of her research she was joined by her former teacher, Giuseppe Levi.
He had escaped the Nazis who had invaded his country of Belgium.
After a number of moves due to invasions and bombings, Levi-Montalcini became an army medical doctor until the end of the war. After spending about two years back at the University of Turin in a typical academic position, in 1947, she had received an invitation from her inspiration, Hamburger, to join him and research the chick embryo at Washington University, St. Louis, Missouri, USA. Their research was successful and Levi-Montalcini remained at Washington University as a full professor until her retirement in 1977.
During her years in St. Louis, Rita-Montalcini was hard at work outside of her position at Washington University. She began a laboratory in Rome, Italy in 1962 and had to divide her time in both cities. From 1969 to 1978 she was appointed the Director of the Institute of Cell Biology of the C. N. R. which was also in Rome. Rita Levi-Montalcini had continued her research on embryos after her invite to St. Louis and within a few years, had made a breakthrough after demonstrating that the number of nerve cells in the embryos could be influenced by nerve growth factor that was obtained from a mouse tumor cell.
Due to this research, American biochemist, Stanley Cohen worked with Levi-Montalcini to determine the growth factor and its chemical make-up. The two scientists continued and investigated another growth factor which affects the embryonic development of tissues such as eyes and teeth. With the research fo these two scientists, other scientists expanded this original research and in the early 1980’s other scientists established that the nerve growth factor influences the growth of nerves in the brain and spinal cord.
Due to this research and its superior relevance to development of nerves, both Levi-Montalcini and Cohen shared the 1986 Nobel Peace Prize in physiology or medicine. Levi-Montalcini was only the fourth woman to receive the Nobel Peace prize in physiology or medicine was also the first Nobel winner to reach the age of 100 in 2009. The research that Levi-Montalcini has done and the fact that she has reached the age of 100 could be related. In an interview conducted in 2009 after her 100th birthday, she stated that her secret is, in fact a version of the breakthrough that made her famous.
She takes a regular dose of nerve growth factor by means of eye drops. As of the article in 2009, she was continued to work, daily, at the research facility in Rome, Italy, which she had founded in 1962 without a sign of stopping. Her facility was awarded a 1. 1 million dollar grant to continue their research as a celebratory gift from Italian government. Her discovery of this nerve growth factor has paved the way to a number of medical breakthroughs and may one day the basis behind the eternal fountain of youth.
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Rita Levi-Montalcini. (2017, Feb 21). Retrieved from https://studymoose.com/rita-levi-montalcini-essay