Dr.Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard

When we were studying the development of organisms in my biology class, I began to wonder which scientists had made discoveries in the field that we were studying. One of the people I came across was Dr.Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard who is a Nobel laureate. She received her award in the category of Physiology or Medicine in 1995.

Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard | Bastian Greshake via Flickr

After receiving her doctorate in genetics, she worked at multiple research facilities including the European Molecular Biology Laboratory. It was here that she did her groundbreaking research into how the embryos of fruit flies develop. She and her partner spent a year crossbreeding approximately 40,000 fruit flies. The sheer scale of the research and effort required to conduct it truly amazes me. They would observe the mosquitoes under a microscope and eventually identified the 15 genes that are responsible for the development from the larva to the fly. When breeding the flies they would mutate the fruit flies genetics to see what gene changed and what it changed.

Female Mexican Fruit Fly | Jack Dykinga, U.S. Department of Agriculture via Wikimedia

Now you may be wondering what the big deal is about, I mean they’re just fruit flies right. Well in actuality, fruit flies share around 60% of their DNA with humans. As a result, these 15 genes are also found in humans and have helped scientists to further understand the development of organisms. The work conducted by Dr.Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard is truly amazing.



  1. An Te Chu says:

    Thanks for highlighting this great scientist, in fact I actually took a molecular genetics class this year that focused heavily on drosophila developmental biology!

    A suggestion I have is to expand the discussion on the experimental method utilized by Dr. Nusslein-Volhard. Forward genetics has been fundamental to the development of genetics and they often involve very large scale screens. If you find the homology stuff interesting, I’d suggest you examine the new modern reverse genetics techniques!

    An Te

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