Illustration of Nerve growth

1952 Nerve growth

The book of science

Tom Sharp

Rita Levi-Montalcini, Stanley Cohen neuroscience Illustration of Nerve growth

Nerve growth

Rita Levi-Montalcini studied the growth of nerve fibers in chicken embryos, working in a laboratory she set up in her bedroom. By amputating limbs inside eggs, she found that nerve growth in the embryonic dorsal root ganglion is proportional to the size of the limb tissue. Then she discovered that a mouse tumor, transplanted into the embryo, produced a substance that promoted nerve growth, which Stanley Cohen was able to isolate and analyze.

Growth factors

Nerve growth factor causes axonal growth. Other factors, proteins that bind to cell-receptors like keys that unlock doors, govern the growth of all other tissues.


Curiosity, luck, ignorance, ego, and a good liberal education . . . some combination of traits, combined with environmental factors, ignoring inessential complaints, improves the mind, matures the soul. Some say the young must travel, learn a language, a musical instrument, be exposed to a variety of religious experiences, and experience the beauty of wilderness. Whatever we can do to counteract the processes of nationalism, tribalism, and fanaticism would be good. It would be nice if repeating our successes were not in conflict with wanting everyone to think for oneself.

Rita Levi-Montalcini took eye drops containing nerve-grown factor and reported increased mental capacity. When people first fall in love, they have higher levels of nerve-growth factor.

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