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Listen or download interview (mp3, 24 minutes, 14MB)
Why does your nose look like your nose? Why doesn’t it look like your elbow, when the DNA in your nose and your elbow are the same? These seemingly simple questions have captivated Mina Bissell for the past 40 years.
Bissell faced quite a bit of resistance when she set out to find the answers: it was the 1960s and she was female, foreign and had unconventional ideas. But she’d grown up surrounded by strong, educated women in Iran, so she never thought to give up. Instead, she persisted, and what she found changed how we think about cancer. Specifically, she discovered that the stuff around cells—molecules called the “extracellular matrix”—can determine whether cells stay healthy or become sick.
Mina Bissell is a distinguished scientist in the life sciences division of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. She was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2010.
Last Updated: 11-21-2013
The audio files linked above are part of the National Academy of Sciences InterViews series. Opinions and statements included in these audio files are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Academy of Sciences.