Boris Ephrussi studied fruit flies, yeast, and mouse genetics and development while working in France and the US during the twentieth century. In yeast, Ephrussi studied how mutations in the cytoplasm persisted across generations. In mice he studied the genetics of hybrids and the development of cancer. Working with George Wells Beadle on the causes of different eye colors in fruit flies, Ephrussi's research helped establish the one-gene-one-enzyme hypothesis. Ephrussi helped create new embryological techniques and contributed the theories of genetics and development.

Epidermal growth factor is a signaling molecule that stimulates the growth of epidermal tissues during development and throughout life. Stanley Cohen discovered epidermal growth factor (EGF) during studies of nerve growth factor as a side effect of other experiments. EGF stimulates tissue growth by initiating a variety of cellular mechanisms. This work led to the 1986 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine awarded to Cohen and Rita Levi-Montalcini. At the Nobel Award ceremony Levi-Montalcini focused her acceptance speech on nerve growth factor, while Cohen focused his on epidermal growth factor. Although they presented different topics, they were close collaborators and their combined effort led to the discovery of nerve growth factor. They had worked together in Viktor Hamburger's laboratory at Washington University in St. Louis.

In 1935, George Beadle and Boris Ephrussi developed a technique to transplant optic discs between fruit fly larvae. They developed it while at the California Institute of Technology in Pasedena, California. Optic discs are tissues from which the adult eyes develop. Beadle and Ephrussi used their technique to study the development of the eye and eye pigment. (1) The experimenter dissects a donor larva, which is in the third instar stage of development, and removes the optic disc (colored red) with a micropipette.

In the 1930s, George Beadle and Boris Ephrussi discovered factors that affect eye colors in developing fruit flies. They did so while working at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena, California. (1) They took optic discs (colored fuchsia in the image) from fruit fly larvae in the third instar stage of development. Had the flies not been manipulated, they would have developed into adults with vermilion eyes.

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