Esteemed Embryologist Dies

How do you get immortalized in life? Well, if you’ve actually contributed something to the medical community- then that would be one way for you to be remembered for eternity.

Considered by many to be the father of modern embryology, Andrzej Tarkowski, passed away on September 23 at the age of 83. Magdalena Zernicka Goetz of the University of Cambridge wrote in his obituary that his willingness and desire to understand the early stages of human development brought out something for using such simple and elegant tools that paved the way to experiments that provided insight into the earliest events of our lives.

Tarkowski was a graduate student at the University of Warsaw in the 1950s. His early discovery was that even if you’ve destroyed one cell in a two-cell mouse embryo, it wouldn’t stop the development of the remaining embryo at all. This finding has paved the way for the creation of prenatal genetic tests that would help would-be parents detect any genetic problems in their soon-to-be-born babies.

He was also responsible for the creation of the first chimeric mouse embryos which still has great scientific implications in this day and age.

Tarkowski actually made his own lab back at the University of Warsaw. There, he worked on the molecular rules that govern the cells fate when it comes to the early development of the child.

He was also one of the first people to propose the inside-outside hypothesis. This hypothesis states that the inner cells of the embryo would lead to the creation of the actual embryo, while the outer embryo would become its placenta.

Zernicka-Goetz pointed out that the inside-outside hypothesis, to this day, remains as one of the central tenets of mammalian development. She once attended a lecture by Tarkowski, where he discussed, in great detail, the mouse embryo’s plasticity. In a follow-up request, Tarkowski had also created a mouse-vole Chimera as well.

Impressive Feats

What made Tarkowski really popular in the medical community was that he was able to do his experiments at a time where Poland was still predominantly under communist control. At this period, the materials used to conduct proper research were hard to come by. What he achieved with just a handful of things, said Zernicka-Goetz, was nothing short of astounding.

The esteemed embryologist also created a technique where he would analyze chromosome structures in mouse oocytes by utilizing electric current to help bind two-cell embryos together. This was done in the 1980s where medical technology, at the time, was still limited. The procedure was later called electrofusion and, given enough time, was adopted by many researchers all over the world.

In fact, this method was used to create genetically modified mice with huge success and further studies were done to test its effects if it would be long-lasting or not.

Zernicka-Goetz, in her closing remarks, said that Tarkowski was a truly unique human being. He helped uncover some of life’s most profound mysteries and he had shared his findings to the entire world.

In closing, Tarkowski’s influence in the medical field, his friends, colleagues, and family, has been nothing short of exceptional. He will truly be missed.