Today’s Google Doodle celebrates the 136th birthday celebration of pathologist Georgios Papanikolaou, who developed up the cancer screening test we know today as a Pap smear.
Moving to the U.S. in 1913 probably been a radical change for Papanikolaou and his wife Andromachi at first. Just two years out of medical school in Greece, he’d quite recently come back to dry land after a spell with the Oceanographic Exploration Team of the Prince of Monaco, which he joined in 1911, not long after completing his PhD and marrying Andromachi. What’s more, after all that, Papanikolaou found himself in New York City with a medical degree and a doctorate, selling carpets and playing the violin in restaurants to get by while his wife sewed buttons for $5 a week. After a few months, be that as it may, Papanikolaou got a job as an researcher in the pathology division at New York Hospital and the department of anatomy at Cornell University, and Andromachi joined him as a technician and, sometimes, as a test subject.
Around 1925, Papanikolaou was studying how cells in the vagina and uterus changed all through the menstrual cycle. A few cells changed amid feminine cycle in the guinea pigs in Papanikolaou’s lab at Cornell, and he needed to knowif the same thing happened in humans, so he recruited his wife and several female friends to be, well, guinea pigs. He gathered his cell tests by scratching a few cells from the external opening of the cervix (the opening between the vagina and the uterus), then smearing the cells onto a glass slide and studying them under a microscope.
As it occurred, one of Andromachi Papanikolaou’s friends had uterine cancer, and the malignant, changed cells emerged like sore thumbs among the healthy cells on the slide. Papanikolaou understood that he’d found something significant, and in 1928 he exhibited his discoveries to a medicinal gathering in Michigan. He wasn’t the first to notice, however. In 1927, a doctor in Romania, Aurel Babes, demonstrated a similar technique to his peers. Since Papanikolaou actually used his method first, in 1925, he generally gets the credit today. Modern Pap smears are also based on Papanikolaou’s technique for getting cell samples and putting them on a slide, rather than Babes’.
In any case, in the late 1920s, a large portion of the medicinal community stayed doubtful and pretentious. For help, Papanikolaou cited a tidbit he’d spotted in a text on lung diseases written in 1843 (40 years before he was born), whose writer likewise seen that cancer cells were anything but difficult to spot under the microscope. It took until 1943 for the medicinal community to perceive the significance of what Papanikolaou had found.
Papanikolaou died in 1962, but his work continues to save lives. Because it’s a quick, inexpensive, and effective way to screen patients for early signs of uterine and cervical cancer, the Pap smear is still one of the most important tools in the modern fight against cancer.