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Ethics

Happy Birthday, Jane Goodall!

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Jane Goodall with Freud

Credit: Michael Neugebauer, courtesy of The Jane Goodall Institute
Caption: Dr. Jane Goodall with Freud, a Gombe chimpanzee

Today, I’d like to wish a very “Happy Birthday” to a dear friend and one of my personal heroes: Jane Goodall. Given Jane’s energy and youthful attitude, it’s hard to believe that this scientist who was so instrumental in advancing our understanding of primate behavior is turning 80 today.

But, indeed, more than a half-century has passed since Jane first traveled to Africa to begin her field research in Gombe National Park on the shores of Africa’s Lake Tanganyika. Her goal? To observe wild chimpanzees in their natural environment and analyze their behavior like no researcher had done before.

At first, the chimps were shy and ran away whenever Jane approached. But, as they grew used to the young biologist’s presence, they continued on with their daily activities as she carefully watched and meticulously recorded their actions, often equipped with nothing more than a pair of binoculars, a pencil, and a notebook. Her landmark work revealed that chimp behavior resembled human behavior in ways that no one had even imagined—findings that transformed our understanding of our closest relatives in the animal kingdom.


HeLa Cells: A New Chapter in An Enduring Story

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Brightly colored cells

Caption: Multiphoton fluorescence image of HeLa cells stained with the actin binding toxin phalloidin (red), microtubules (cyan) and cell nuclei (blue). NIH-funded work at the National Center for Microscopy and Imaging Research. Credit: Tom Deerinck

One of the first things a biomedical researcher learns is that it’s very hard to grow most human cells in the lab for an extended period. In fact, once removed from the human body, most cells will either die immediately or reproduce only a limited number of times. That’s why it was so significant in 1951 that this barrier was overcome for the first time, using cancer cells taken from a 31 year old African American woman named Henrietta Lacks.


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