Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard (b. 1942) is a Germany biologist who won the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research in 1991 and the Female Nobel Prize Laureates in Physiology or Medicine in 1995, together with Eric Wieschaus and Edward B. Lewis, for their research on the genetic control of embryonic development.
Early Life and Education
Christiane Nüsslein was born on October 20, 1942, in Magdeburg, Germany. She studied biochemistry at the University of Tübingen, graduating in 1969. For her diploma thesis, she along with fellow student Bertold Heyden, developed a new method for large scale purification of very clean RNA polymerase. She turned her attention to fruit flies, drosofila melanogaster, for her post-doctoral research, partly conducted at the University of Basel in Switzerland. Her post-doctoral research, the basis for her later work, focused on the gene mutations in the fruit fly.
Nobel Prize Work on fruit flies
The experiment that earned Nüsslein-Volhard and her collaborators the Nobel prize aimed to identify genes involved in the development of fruit fly embryos. The genes involved in embryonic development were identified by generating random mutations in fruit flies and breeding them. Whenever the development was impaired, changed or absent, the experimenters identified exactly which gene(s) had been affected by the mutation, thereby building up a set of genes crucial for Drosophila development. The subsequent study of these mutants and their interactions led to important new insights into early Drosophila development, especially the mechanisms that underlie the step-wise development of body segments.
These experiments have a significance for organisms other than fruit flies.These findings have also led to important realizations about evolution.Additionally, they greatly increased our understanding of the regulation of transcription, as well as cell fate during development.
Nüsslein-Volhard is associated with the discovery of the toll gene, which led to the identification of toll-like receptors.
Since 1985 Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard has been Director of the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Tübingen and also leads its Genetics Department.