Dr. Nina Zanetti
Nina C. Zanetti
B.S. Biology, Muhlenberg College, 1977.
Ph.D. Biology, Syracuse University, 1982.
Postdoctoral studies at the University of Iowa (1982-1985)
Courses: Histology, Developmental Biology, Pathobiology, Human Anatomy & Physiology, General Biology
My major teaching interest at Siena includes two "morphology" courses, Histology and Developmental Biology. These two courses have the common characteristic of emphasizing biological structure and function, especially at the level of what can be observed with a light microscope. Histology explores the many types of specialized cells and tissues that make up the adult human body. In Developmental Biology, we look at how those tissues first differentiate in a developing embryo, and how they become organized into the many complex organs of an adult animal.
In both of these upper level courses students conduct long-term independent projects. Histology projects explore questions about tissue structure and function, such as comparing tissue structure in different types of vertebrates, or investigating changes in tissue structure as a result of hormone treatments. In Developmental Biology projects, students use chick embryos to investigate questions such as: Can organ rudiments develop outside their normal environment? Do various drugs or vitamins affect embryonic development?
I also enjoy teaching other courses in our department, including General Biology and Scientific Writing. Participation in these introductory courses allows me to meet freshmen and to help them adjust to college level science courses. I find Scientific Writing an especially interesting course, because we have developed an innovative program of workshops, led by peer tutors, to help students improve their ability to communicate science in writing, an important skill both in college and for most future careers.
Although I did my graduate work in Cell Biology, with a thesis project on cilia, my postdoctoral studies at the University of Iowa led me to change my research interests to the area of developmental biology, specifically the question of how limbs develop in vertebrate embryos. The experimental organism that I use for this research is the chick embryo. Chick embryos are convenient model systems for developmental studies: they are easy to obtain, they feed themselves, and they don't bite! They are also very similar to humans in their early development, and therefore a study of chick development can reveal much about how human embryos develop.
My research focuses on the development of the cells and tissues of the embryonic limb skeleton. Using techniques of tissue culture and histology, we can ask questions such as: How do skeletal tissues become specialized? How do the differentiating cells acquire the spatial patterns that are necessary to form a functional limb skeleton? Undergraduates have been working with me on two projects related to these questions. In one, we are exploring whether non-skeletal tissues in the embryonic limb provide information that helps the differentiating skeletal tissue acquire its correct spatial pattern. In another project, we are trying to determine whether the skeleton-forming cells of forelimbs and hindlimbs have different properties that may enable the embryonic rudiments of these two limb types to "know" which type of limb skeleton to form (a wing or a leg).
Zanetti, N.C. and M. Solursh. 1989. Effect of Cell Shape on Cartilage Differentiation. In Cell Shape: Determinants, Regulation, and Regulatory Role. Stein and Bronner, ed. Academic Press.
Zanetti, N.C., V.M. Dress and M. Solursh. 1990. Comparison between Ectoderm-Conditioned Medium and Fibronectin in Their Effects on Chondrogenesis by Limb Bud Mesenchymal Cells. Devel. Bio. 139:383-395.