Eric Wieschaus' Childhood (03:27)
Nobel Prize winning scientist Eric Wieschaus grew up wanting to become an artist. He was drawn to math in school. At 15, a teacher encouraged him to enroll for a summer program studying biology.
Why Genetics? (05:40)
Wieschaus was fascinated by embryos and wanted to become an embryologist during his undergraduate education. He took genetics but only viewed it as a way to learn more about embryos at first. He realized he had to become a geneticist to study embryos.
What Happened Next... (03:21)
In graduate school, Wieschaus worked for Donald Poulson, who established the study of fruit flies in genetics. Wieschaus studied fruit flies embryos in terms of development.
Completing Studies and Post-Doctorate Work (02:34)
Wieschaus traveled to Switzerland with Walter Gehring to study in his lab. The lab worked on creating molecular techniques to study development.
The Plan: To Figure Out Which Genes Control Development in Fruit Fly Embryos (03:49)
Wieschaus and fellow researcher Christiane Nusslein-Volhard wanted to figure out which genes controlled the development of fruit fly embryos. They struggled to find a strategy that would work within the classical genetics approach.
Creating Mutant Fruit Flies and Stable Inbred Lines (02:11)
Existing experiments using fruit flies showed Wiechaus and Nusslein-Volhard that their task was doable. They realized they could establish stable inbred lines to study any mutation.
Saturation Mutagenesis (02:22)
Other experiments showed it was possible to saturate large quantities of genes based on how small intervals had been saturated. The number of genes they needed to estimate vital genes was smaller than initial estimates.
The Project Begins a the European Molecular Biology Lab (02:53)
Wieschaus and Nusslein-Voldhard started working on their project in Heidelberg, Germany. They began setting up inbred fruit fly lines so they could determine what genes were essential for development.
What the Experiment Revealed About Embryonic Development in Fruit Flies (03:47)
Once Wieschaus and Nusslein-Voldhard had determined all 150 genes, they could group them based on different criteria. They could determine genes that were essential to embryo development and if they were supplied by the embryo or the mother.
Further Revelations from the Experiments (02:17)
The research showed there were classes of genes that detected different cues that would activate their products. It showed a sequence of development stages within the embryo.
How the Hierarchy of Genes Was Worked Out (04:07)
By removing individual genes, Wieschaus and Nusslein-Voldhard were able to uncover the hierarchy of genes and gene activity. Removing a gene made all of the subsequent steps abnormal.
Homeotic Genes: Effects of Mutations (06:27)
Wieschaus' research showed that mutations to genes very early on in embryonic development would cause defects in long-term development. More subtle affects are caused by genes later on in development.
Early Stages of Development (01:31)
Weischaus' experiment focused on the early stages of development because they are more discreet and easier to detect within the embryos. They needed to understand how the gene activities started before they could look at further stages of development.
Fruit Flies and Human Development (02:59)
Mutations that cause defects in early human embryo development are harder to spot than in fruit fly embryos. Only a small fraction of possible birth defects in humans are ever seen.
The Model Organism Concept (05:34)
After having scanned the fruit fly genome, Wieschaus and Nusslein-Voldhard could see how genes controlled embryo development. Each sequence of the genome had a similar counterpart in the human genome. Similar genes played a role in fruit fly and human embryo development.
Understanding the Human Brain (04:44)
Genetics and biology will help science understand how the human brain develops. Wieschaus believes understanding how the human brain works is the next frontier for science, which will push researchers to think of new ways to look at problems.
Being a Scientist (02:25)
Wieschaus did not understand as a student what daily life as a scientist would be like. He spends long hours in a lab but enjoys the work he does and the people he works with.
The Frustrations of Science (03:17)
Science can be frustrating for Wieschaus because he spends so much time in the lab working on experiments that can go wrong at any moment. He says the world views experiments by the end results but scientists have very small goals and success on a daily basis.
The Problem of the Embryo (02:33)
Wieschaus says he is fortunate to have made important discoveries with embryos because he enjoys them. The complexity has allowed him to make a career of studying them.
Credits: Eric Wieschaus: Passionate Scientist (Full Interview) (00:27)
Credits: Eric Wieschaus: Passionate Scientist (Full Interview)
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