The Department of Cell & Developmental Biology at The University of Michigan Medical School is dedicated to the instruction and guidance of undergraduate, graduate, and professional students, as well as post-baccalaureate and post-doctoral trainees in the areas of cell biology, developmental biology, genetics, neuroscience, organogenesis, stem cell biology, and tissue repair and regeneration. The history of the department is a fascinating one.
The development of our department has in many respects mirrored the historical changes that have affected the discipline of Anatomy throughout the country. As a very old discipline, Anatomy has had a strong identity as a field. When the University of Michigan Medical School opened its doors in 1850, one of the six established professorships was the Professor of Anatomy. For the next hundred years, Anatomy at Michigan developed along the traditional lines of teaching and research in gross anatomy, microscopic anatomy, embryology, and neuroanatomy. During this era, there was a very close relationship between a faculty member’s research and teaching. Our department produced some major figures in the field including James McMurrich (gross anatomy), George Streeter (embryology), Carl Huber (neuroanatomy), Bradley Patten (embryology), and Elizabeth Crosby (neuroanatomy).
The department retained its traditional orientation and areas of teaching/research emphasis until the 1970s, when sweeping changes in the entire biomedical research arena began to pull apart the monolithic bases of the traditional preclinical disciplines. First, the annual meetings of the American Association of Anatomists, which were attended by the vast majority of Anatomy faculty members of all medical schools, became less and less a central professional focus of faculty and students of anatomy departments. One of the reasons for this change was the proliferation of many research-oriented professional societies, such as those of cell biology and neurosciences. The change in the name of our department to the Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology more than 15 years ago was a reflection of these trends. Although the related disciplines of cell and developmental biology have historical scientific roots in the discipline of anatomy, both have incorporated and come to rely on techniques of modern molecular biology. This has required a substantial movement away from classical anatomical methods. Thus at the end of 1999, our department was reorganized into the Department of Cell & Developmental Biology.
Molecular biology in the Department
Molecular Biology in an Anatomy department? Twenty five years ago, few people would have guessed how quickly and how broadly molecular biological approaches would become integrated into morphological research. Yet the marriage of molecules and morphology has opened up many exciting new avenues of research in our discipline. In order to allow new and existing faculty and trainees to take advantage of the multidisciplinary approach to research, we have created a number of molecular mini-cores for general departmental use. As part of the MIL renovation, we created a molecular biology core laboratory that functions to assist and instruct people who do not regularly use molecular techniques in their laboratories. In addition to this central core, we established mini-equipment cores (centrifuges, freezers, cold rooms, etc.) on each of our three floors so that investigators would have ready access to the equipment that they need. The Department has committed several hundred thousand dollars to this upgrading of research facilities, but we felt that if we were going to undertake such a transition we should get set up as well as finances would allow. When these are combined with the University Molecular Core Facilities (DNA and protein sequencing and synthesis, computer graphics, NMR Transgenic Mouse and Hybridoma Cores, etc.), our faculty and students will have ready access to the technology needed for contemporary research.
Department Name Changes Over Time
- Department of Anatomy 1854-1981
- Department of Anatomy and Cell Biology 1981-2000
- Department of Cell & Developmental Biology 2000-
The Department of Cell & Developmental Biology at The University of Michigan Medical School is dedicated to the instruction and guidance of undergraduate, graduate, and professional students, as well as post-baccalaureate and post-doctoral trainees in the areas of cell biology, developmental biology, genetics, neuroscience, organogenesis, stem cell biology, and tissue repair and regeneration.