April 23rd, 2012
(written by lawrence, however indented passages are often quotes)
I am curious, if you took NGF to keep your nerves young and HGH to keep your muscles and bones young, then what would get old? Would it be possible to stay young forever by taking every form of growth factor hormones?
Has Dr. Rita Levi Montalcini unlocked the secret of eternal life? The oldest living and the longest-lived Nobel laureate in history, Montalcini celebrates today her 103th birthday.
“I can say my mental capacity is greater today than when I was 20, since it has been enriched by so many experiences,” she says.
Her longevity might be the result of an unusual potion she takes every day in the form of eye drops — a dose of nerve growth factor (NGF), which she discovered (jointly with American co-worker Stanley Cohen), in June 1951 in the labs of Washington University in St. Louis.
A protein essential for the growth, maintenance and survival of sensory and sympathetic neurons (nerve cells) in the peripheral nervous system, NGF was not widely recognized until 1986, when it won Levi-Montalcini and Cohen the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine.
Levi-Montalcini still follows the developments of her findings at the European Brain Research Institute, which she founded in Rome.
Indeed, her work has had a significant influence on research exploring several diseases, including cancer, Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease.
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Rita, as she prefers to be called, celebrated her birthday privately, raising a toast with some of her closest collaborators.
As always, she was exquisitely dressed and wore some ancient jewels, the Italian daily Affari Italiani writes.
In line with her motto “I look forward,” she decided to wait for the cake until this fall.
“She will celebrate at the Brain Forum in Rome, which is dedicated to her amazing career,” the daily wrote.
“Grazie! Thank you,” Levi-Montalcini wrote on her Facebook page, in response to innumerable birthday wishes.
Envisaging a quantum Internet, for now she is pleased to find out that her Facebook likes grew “from 2,000 to 200,000.”
She now continues to work as a senator for life, and last month harshly criticized Mario Monti’s government of technocrats for abolishing the peer review mechanism in funding policies to researchers.
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“Italy — and quite possibly the world — has never seen a scientist quite like her,” the journal Nature wrote on the occasion of her widely celebrated 100th birthday.
Born with her twin sister Paola (who died in 2000 aged 91) to a Jewish family in Turin in 1909, Levi-Montalcini went to medical school, despite the objections of her father. He worried that her work as a doctor would interfere with her duties of future wife and mother.
“At twenty, I realized that I could not possibly adjust to a feminine role as conceived by my father, and asked him permission to engage in a professional career,” Levi-Montalcini wrote in her biography.
“In eight months I filled my gaps in Latin, Greek and mathematics, graduated from high school, and entered medical school in Turin,” she added.
She graduated in 1936, but two years later her career was halted by Mussolini’s laws banning “inferior races” from academic and professional careers.
Undaunted, Levi-Montalcini set up an improvised laboratory in her bedroom during World War II, and studied the growth of nerve fibers in chicken embryos.