Rita Levi-Montalcini and the discovery of NGF, the first nerve cell growth factor.Arch Ital Biol. 2011 Jun; 149(2):175-81.AI
The nerve growth factor (NGF) is a signaling protein, discovered by Rita Levi-Montalcini in the early 1950's for its effect on growth and differentiation of specific populations of neurons of the peripheral nervous system. Originally identified as neurite outgrowth-stimulating factor, later studies revealed that the purified molecule has a number of target cells in the central nervous system and on nonneuronal cells. Moreover, recent studies showed the potential therapeutic properties of NGF in neuropathies of the central and peripheral nervous system and diseases of the eye and skin. Here I briefly describe the discovery of NGF, the early studies of Rita LeviMontalcini, a pioneer in modern neuroscience, and my scientific and human experience working in her laboratory for over 40 years.