1986 Kyoto Prize Laureates

Advanced Technology

Biotechnology and Medical Technology

Nicole Marthe Le Douarin

/  Developmental Biologist

1930 -

Director, Institute of Embryology at C.N.R.S.

Commemorative Lectures

The Exciting Potentials of Biology


11 /12 Wed

Place:Kyoto International Conference Center


Searching for How Animals Develop


11 /13 Thu

14:00 - 17:30

Place:Kyoto International Conference Center

Achievement Digest

Outstanding Contribution to Embryology through the Development of the Technology for Making Chicken/Quail Chimeras

A biologist who invented a new technology to produce quail-chick chimeras from chickens and quails. Thereby, the development of the nervous and immune systems in higher animals was illuminated. She has made significant contributions to the establishment of the method known as “Embryo Manipulation.”

*This field then was Field of Biotechnologies (Molecular Genetics, Cellular and Developmental Biology, Cancer Research, Application of Biological Function, etc.).


The process of animal development, which involves dramatic changes starting from the simple form of an egg and growing to an elaborate organization, has attracted the attention of biologists for many years. The total understanding of this process, however, has been insurmountably difficult and constitutes one of the most important themes for biology today. One of the difficulties is to find out the very basic facts about how each cell, the basic unit of an organism, behaves in the process of development.

Prof. Le Douarin invented a new technology to produce quail-chick chimaeras from chicken and quail embryos, and devised the quail-chick cell marker system. She was thus successful in elucidating very clearly the migration of various cells from the primordium along specific routes and the course of their development into adult organs mainly in the nervous and immune systems. She established the basis for illuminating at full scale the development of the nervous and immune systems in higher vertebrates, which had not been clearly studied before her introduction of such new technology.

With the success of this new research method Prof. Le Douarin has established a new approach to the study of development at the cellular level, and she has made a significant contribution to the establishment of a new research technology, called embryo manipulation. In so doing, she has opened a new era in developmental research. The study of the development of the nervous and immune systems of animals has been especially needed, because these systems play critical roles in supporting the life of higher animals, including Homo sapiens.

Through her recent studies on the various functional disorders of the nervous system arising in chimaeras with respect to the development of the immune system, she has shown that the use of chimaeric animals presents a completely new viewpoint for investigating human nervous diseases. Her technology and research on developmental biology, which have opened up a bright future for the basic understanding of the causes of serious human diseases, are most worthy of the Kyoto Prize, especially in the “Age of Biology” when other sciences and technologies are learning so much from living organisms.


Graduated from University of Paris, Bachelor of Science
Lycee teacher of natural sciences
Research member of C.N.R.S.
Doctor of Science Degree
Lecturer in Faculty of Science at Clermont-Ferrand University
Professor at Nantes University
Director of Institute of Embryology at C.N.R.S.
Selected Awards and Honors
Legion d'Honneur
Admitted to Academy of Sciences, France
Admitted to American Academy of Arts and Sciences
Major Works
Tracing of Cells of the Avian Thymus through Embryonic Life in Interspecific Chimaeras (with F. Jotereau)
The Neural Crest
Mapping of the Early Neural Primordium in Quail-Chick Chimaeras: I. Developmental Relationship between Placodes, Facial Ectoderm and Proscephalon (with G. F. Couly)
Post-natal Development of a Demyelinating Disease in Avian Spinal Cord Chimaeras(with M. Kinutani and M. Coltey)

Profile is at the time of the award.