23 April 2009

Anniversary of the "grandmother of modern neuroscience"

The oldest Nobel laureate Levi-Montalcini turned 100 years old
Sergey Startsev, RIA Novosti.

The oldest Nobel laureate, Italian neuroscientist, Senator for life Rita Levi-Montalcini (Rita Levi-Montalcini) turned 100 on Wednesday.

"I am deeply excited that I have reached the age of 100, having lived a life with joy, which, I think, few have experienced. I'm not afraid of death, it doesn't matter to me when it comes," she told reporters on the eve of the anniversary.

Rita Levi-Montalcini was born on April 22, 1909 in Turin. In 1936, she graduated from the Medical Faculty of the University of Turin, where she began her studies of the nervous system, which she continued throughout her life. In 1938, as a result of the application of the so-called "racial laws" in fascist Italy, which imposed numerous restrictions on Jews, she was forced to emigrate to Belgium and continued her scientific work at the University of Brussels. In 1940, she returned to her homeland, where she founded a laboratory near the city of Asti, where she studied the nervous system of chicken embryos. After the liberation of Italy, she worked for a while as a doctor in a refugee camp in Florence.

In 1947, she accepted an offer to continue her research activities at the University of Washington (USA, Missouri), where she was a professor of biology until 1977. From 1961 to 1969, she headed the Neurobiology Research Center in Rome, and then for another 10 years she headed the metropolitan Laboratory of Cell Biology at the Italian National Research Institute.

Levi-Montalcini's main scientific works are devoted to the problem of growth and differentiation of nerve cells. In 1951, together with Stanley Cohen, during experiments, she discovered the phenomenon of malignant degeneration and the subsequent rapid development of sympathetic nerve cells as a result of transplantation of a cancerous tumor into a chicken embryo. After that, scientists hypothesized the presence of a substance in cancer cells that stimulates the growth of nervous tissue ("growth factor"), and experimentally proved it. This discovery has revolutionized neuroscience.

In 1986, Levi-Montalcini, together with Cohen, was awarded the Nobel Prize in Medicine. He is a member of many scientific academies of the world, became the first woman admitted to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

In 2001, Italian President Carlo Azelio Ciampi signed a decree appointing Levi-Montalcini a senator for life of the Republic. In this capacity, in 2006-2007, she played a key role several times in the voting on the issue of confidence in the government, consistently supporting the cabinet of Romano Prodi.

Levi-Montalcini is actively engaged in social activities. She participated in the global public campaign for the prohibition of anti-personnel mines, gave a lot of effort to support young scientists.

In 2006, she became the author of the lyrics of one of the songs that was nominated to participate in the famous Italian Song Festival in Sanremo.

"Fortunately, I don't have Alzheimer's disease. And if I'm not mistaken, my thinking abilities are stronger now than when I was 20 years old. Because they have been enriched by a lot of experience. And because neither my curiosity nor my desire to be close to those who suffer has decreased," Levi–Montalcini said on the eve of her hundredth birthday.

A few days before the anniversary, a reception in honor of Levi-Montalcini was held at the Presidential Quirinal Palace in Rome. "It is an incredible luck for me to be among the living. The body may die, but there are messages that we send during life. My message is: believe in true values!" Levi–Montalcini said at the reception.

Portal "Eternal youth" www.vechnayamolodost.ru23.04.2009

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