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Biomedical Reviews

Homage to Rita Levi-Montalcini, the queen of modern neuroscience

George N. Chaldakov, Luigi Aloe


The first cell growth factor, nerve growth factor (NGF), was discovered by Rita Levi-Montalcini (RLM) in the early 1950's in Washington University in Saint Louis, Missouri, USA. Originally identified as neurite outgrowth-stimulating factor, later studies revealed that non-neuronal cells, including immune cells, endothelial cells, cardiomyocytes, pancreatic beta cells, prostate epithelial cells and adipose tissue cells, are also targets for and/or sources of NGF. Nerve growth factor is well recognized at present to mediate multiple biological phenomena, ranging from the neurotrophic through immunotrophic and epitheliotrophic to metabotrophic effects. Consequently, NGF and other members of the neurotrophin family are implicated in the pathogenesis of a large spectrum of neuronal and non-neuronal diseases, ranging from Alzheimer's and other neurodegenerative diseases to atherosclerosis and other cardiometabolic diseases. Recent studies demonstrated the therapeutic potentials of NGF in these diseases including ocular and cutaneous diseases. Whereas NGF TrkA receptor antagonists emerged as novel drugs for pain, prostate and breast cancer, and urinary bladder syndromes. Here we briefly describe (i) the "unpredictable" ideogenesis of the discovery of NGF, and (ii) our scientific and human experience working in RML's laboratory for 15 years (GNC) and over 40 years (LA).

Biomedical Reviews 2012; 23: 1-7.

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About The Authors

George N. Chaldakov
Medical University of Varna

Luigi Aloe
National Research Council of Rome

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