Beatrice Mintz

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Beatrice Mintz
File:Biologist Beatrice Mintz.jpg
Born (1921-01-24) January 24, 1921 (age 102)
New York City, New York
Nationality United States
Fields Embryology, Developmental biology
Institutions University of Chicago
Fox Chase Cancer Center
Alma mater Hunter College and University of Iowa
Doctoral advisor Emil Witschi
Known for Mammalian transgenesis
Influenced Rudolf Jaenisch
Notable awards Genetics Society of America Medal (1981)
Ernst Jung Gold Medal for Medicine (1990)
Pearl Meister Greengard Prize (2007)
March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology
Szent-Gyorgyi Prize for Progress in Cancer Research

Beatrice Mintz (born January 24, 1921 in New York City)[1] is an American embryologist who has contributed to the understanding of genetic modification, cellular differentiation and cancer, particularly melanoma.[1][2]

Mintz was a pioneer of genetic engineering techniques, and was among the first scientists to generate both chimeric and transgenic mammals.[2] In 1996 she shared the inaugural March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology with Ralph L. Brinster for their work in developing transgenic mice.[1] Much of her career has been spent at the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia where, in 2002, she was named to the Jack Schultz Chair in Basic Science.[3] Mintz is a member of both the United States National Academy of Sciences and the Pontifical Academy of Sciences.

Early life and education

Beatrice Mintz was born to Samuel and Janie Stein Mintz, a Jewish family. She graduated magna cum laude from Hunter College in 1941[4] and then took graduate studies at New York University for a year. She transferred to the University of Iowa where she received a Master's degree in 1944 and a Ph.D in 1946,[4] studying amphibians under Emil Witschi.[2]


A chimeric mouse (right) and her pup, demonstrating how cells from different donor strains result in a mosaic coat colour in the chimera.

After graduation, Mintz accepted a Professorship in Biological Science at the University of Chicago[4] (1946–60;[4] interrupted by studies abroad: Mintz was awarded a Fulbright research fellowship at the universities of Paris and Strasbourg in 1951). In 1960 she moved to the Institute for Cancer Research, which later became the Fox Chase Cancer Center, where she remains on faculty. In the mid 1950s, Mintz switched her research focus from amphibians to mammals and became a pioneer in mammalian transgenesis.[2] In 1965 she became a professor at the University of Pennsylvania.[4]

Mintz and Kristoph Tarkowski independently made the first mouse embryonic chimeras in the 1960s, by aggregating two embryos at the eight-cell stage. The resultant mice developed normally and their tissues were a mixture of cells derived from the two donor embryos.[5] Mintz went on to create viable chimeric embryos containing blastomeres from up to fifteen different laboratory mice.[1] She developed a technique that involved mixing cells from a black mouse strain into the blastocysts of white or brown mice in vitro. She then surgically transferred these early embryos into surrogate mothers and, after birth, traced the tissue contribution of each cell type made by studying the coat colour.[6] Her cell fusion technique was successful where others had failed because she chose to remove the zona pellucida with pronase treatment, rather than physically. Since 1967 Mintz has created over 25,000 offspring using this technique.[2]

In other studies, Mintz demonstrated that, when combined with normal mouse embryo cells, teratocarcinoma tumor cells could be reprogrammed to contribute to a healthy mouse.[1][2] These experiments, which took eight years, utilized some of the first pluripotent stem cell cultures ever made.[3]

Mintz and Rudolf Jaenisch published a technological breakthrough in 1974. Jaenisch was a post-doctoral researcher in Princeton University at the time and was interested in why only certain types of cancer occurred when he injected adult mice with viruses. Inspired by Mintz's earlier work, he wanted to know whether injecting virus into early-stage embryos would result in the DNA being incorporated, and what types of cancer would occur.[7] Mintz agreed to work with Jaenisch, who joined her lab as a visiting fellow for 9 months. They showed that DNA from a virus, SV40, could be integrated into the DNA of developing mice and persist into adulthood without apparent tumor formation.[8] Although only somatic cells were affected, meaning the DNA would not be passed on to future generations, these were the first mice ever made with foreign DNA and this experiment proved healthy genetically modified mammals could be created by viral infection.[9] Using these techniques Mintz was able to establish the genetic basis of certain kinds of cancer and in 1993 she produced the first mouse model of human malignant melanoma.[1]


Mintz has received numerous awards and honors including the first Genetics Society of America Medal (1981) and the first March of Dimes Prize in Developmental Biology shared with Ralph L. Brinster (1996).[1][3] She was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1982.[10] She won the Papanicolaou Award for Scientific Achievement (1979), the Ernst Jung Gold Medal for Medicine (1990), the American Cancer Society National Medal of Honor for Basic Research (1997), a citation for Outstanding Woman in Science (1993) from the New York Academy of Sciences, and in 2007 she was a recipient of the Pearl Meister Greengard Prize.[3]

On March 8, 2011 the US National Foundation for Cancer Research announced that its 6th Annual Szent-Gyorgyi Prize for Progress in Cancer Research had been awarded to Beatrice Mintz.[11]

Mintz has received honorary doctorate degrees from five universities. She has delivered dozens of special lectures, including the Ninetieth Anniversary Lecture at the Woods Hole Marine Biological Laboratory (1978) and the first Frontiers in Biomedical Sciences Lecture at the New York Academy of Sciences (1980). She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences, a senior member of the Institute for Cancer Research, Fox Chase Cancer Center, Philadelphia, and served on the editorial boards of various scientific journals.

See also

  • Anne McLaren, a contemporary of Mintz's, who also excelled in developmental biology.


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 Volume 11 of Encyclopedia of World Biography, Gale Research, 1998, p. 49, ISBN 0-7876-2221-4
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Martha J. Bailey, American women in science: a biographical dictionary, Vol. 1, ABC-CLIO, 1994, p. 252, ISBN 0-87436-740-9
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Alumni Fellows, 2002 Recipients, The University of Iowa
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  11. National Foundation for Cancer Research website

External links