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A discovery made a third of a century ago was the subject of a major international conference of scientists last week, and Joseph C. Daniel, professor emeritus of biological sciences and dean emeritus of the College of Sciences, was the lead speaker at the gathering.

The conference was held April 14-16 on the Bethesda, Md., campus of the National Institutes of Health. It was co-sponsored by the New York Academy of Sciences.

At issue was a protein isolated from the uterine secretions of rabbits by Daniel in the 1960s. At the sessions, he explained how it was discovered and how embryos cultured with the protein -- called blastokinin in his 1967 article in Science magazine -- grew better than without it.

"Even though it was initially discovered in the rabbit, it has since been identified in other mammals. It exists in almost every commonly used research animal, several wild species and even humans," said Daniel.

Subsequently, it has become known by many different names. Researchers at the convention tried to establish a defining name for the protein.

By whatever name, blastokinin has become a hot topic in reproductive science. In its presence, embryos grow better and attach more readily to the uterine wall; without it, or in the presence of a counteractive agent, development is restricted. There also has been significant interest in the protein's use as an anti-inflammatory agent and for contraception or fertility regulation, Daniel said.

He explained that the protein, which has now been found in other secretory tissues, has attracted the interest of scientists at NIH because, in its absence or in a mutant form, blastokinin has been implicated in diseases of the kidney, lung and eye.

This article was posted on: April 11, 2000

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