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Born on this Day Dreaming of Flies
20 October 2016

Dreaming of Flies

Biologist Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard says her interest in animals was sparked by childhood trips to the farm where her grandparents sought refuge during World War II. A school report says she had “the talent for independent scientific work”, though notes she could be “decidedly lazy”. As a scientist, she explored which genes regulate the development of an embryo from a ball of cells into a complex organism. She induced mutations in the genes of fruit flies to identify the role that each gene plays. The genes were named after each fly’s appearance, and include ‘hedgehog’, ‘gurken’ and ‘Krüppel’ (German for cripple). It’s now known that many of these genes have similar roles in other species. In 1995 Nüsslein-Volhard and colleagues were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine. In an online biography Nüsslein-Volhard says, “I immediately loved working with flies. They fascinated me, and followed me around in my dreams.”

Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard was born on this day in 1942

Written by Deborah Oakley

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BPoD stands for Biomedical Picture of the Day. Managed by the MRC Laboratory of Medical Sciences until Jul 2023, it is now run independently by a dedicated team of scientists and writers. The website aims to engage everyone, young and old, in the wonders of biology, and its influence on medicine. The ever-growing archive of more than 4000 research images documents over a decade of progress. Explore the collection and see what you discover. Images are kindly provided for inclusion on this website through the generosity of scientists across the globe.

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