Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard: 1995 - Physiology, Medicine

Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard
Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard

Year & Category

1995 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine (jointly with the Americans Edward B. Lewis and Eric F. Wieschaus)

Prize motivation

"For their discoveries concerning the genetic control of early embryonic development"

At the time of the award she worked at

Max-Planck-Institut für Entwicklungsbiologie, Tübingen, Federal Republic of Germany

About her research

Finding the crucial genes
In 1978, at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard and Eric Wieschaus began trying to find the decisive genes for the early embryonic development of the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. Their numerous and rapidly developing offspring make the fruit fly the ideal research subject, especially as genetically altered individuals (mutants) are easily detected. Nüsslein-Volhard and Wieschaus produced and examined approximately 20,000 Drosophila mutants. As reward for all their work they were able to find the 15 crucial genes.

Serving science and society
Geneticist Edward Lewis pointed out the similarity between the genes of the fruit fly and human genes. Through her later work on zebrafish, Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard gained valuable insights into the developmental genes of vertebrates. The similarity in the developmental genes of certain animals and humans is of significant interest to medical research and connected to hopes that this may provide new knowledge about the pathogenesis of cancer. Outside her concrete research work, Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard also rendered outstanding services to science. In 2004, for example, she established a foundation in her name which supports young mothers of all nationalities in their careers as researchers.