Basic Science B.D. (before Drosophila): Cytology at Warsaw University (Poland)
Published: 14 February 2008
Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, The University of Texas, M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, USA
The majority of modern research in cell and developmental biology is based almost exclusively on seven model organisms: mouse, zebra fish, Xenopus laevis frog, Drosophila fly, Caenorabditis elegans worm, Arabidopsis plant and yeast. Although the validity and practicality of these model systems and their impact on scientific progress are undeniable, the combination of goal-oriented science and the use of the model systems introduces, a priori, a dangerous limitation to scientific discovery. Consequently, many astonishing phenomena occurring in non-model organisms are either never studied or, disappear from scientific consciousness. A perfect example is the fate of the important studies by Professor Zygmunt Kraczkiewicz on chromatin diminution in Cecidomyiidae (Diptera) conducted before World War II and continued by his team until early 1990 in the Department of Cytology at Warsaw University in Poland. These light and electron microscopy studies have not been elevated to the molecular level, and although they deserve to be extensively studied and cited by researchers working in the field of soma and germ cell differentiation and specification, they have been, within the past 40 years, nearly completely wiped out of scientific memory. This article presents a short summary of this important research in the historical context of pre- and post-war science at Warsaw University in Poland.