Over its 120-year history, the focus of the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology has evolved from the study of human anatomy and cytology, and the elucidation of subcellular structures, to the analysis of molecular mechanisms that regulate the dynamic behavior of different cell types and their contents.
A major figure in the early history of the department was Dr. George Papanicolaou who, in the 1920s, developed the ‘Pap smear’: a screening method for early detection of pre-cancerous and cancerous lesions of the uterine cervix. Widespread application of this cytological test led to a huge reduction in mortality from cervical cancer, which 100 years ago was the leading cause of cancer death among U.S. women.
Since those early days, a continuous theme of research in the department has been the application of new technologies to understanding fundamental aspects of cell and tissue biology that underlie normal development, tissue maintenance, and the basis of human disease. Current faculty research areas include cell signaling, developmental and stem cell biology, tissue regeneration, vascular biology, and the biology of cancer and tumor metastasis.
In addition to mentoring students and fellows in their research, Cell & Developmental Biology faculty members actively educate both medical and graduate school students and many are members of the Weill Cornell Graduate School Biochemistry, Cell and Molecular Biology (BCMB) program.
As an integrated component of the interdisciplinary biomedical research infrastructure at Weill Cornell Medicine, the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology is poised to fully embrace the challenges and opportunities of the coming decades, and to take a leading role in the application of basic science to medicine.