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Tracking the Philadelphia Chromosome, circa 1960

The Scientist takes a quick look at the historic discovery of the genetic underpinnings of cancer, courtesy of Philly's finest some 50 years ago.

In 1956, Peter Nowell joined the University of Pennsylvania faculty and began what he calls "poorly defined studies of leukemia." By rinsing blood cells with tap water before staining and mounting them on a microscope slide, Nowell inadvertently caused the cells to swell and flatten, and most importantly, disrupted their mitotic spindle—allowing him to visualize their chromosomes more easily.

Nowell teamed up with David Hungerford, a PhD student at the nearby Fox Chase Cancer Center, and together they detected that a chunk seemed to be missing from chromosome 22 in the leukocytes of CML patients. They published their findings in 1960, and the shortened chromosome was named after the city where it was discovered. But their suggestion that the aberration itself was causing the cells to proliferate abnormally met with a less-than-enthusiastic reception, recalls Nowell. One reviewer even said that the observation probably had no relevance to the clinical disease.

Original source: The Scientist
Read the full story here.

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