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)


  • Histology
  • Developmental Biology
  • Pathobiology
  • Human Anatomy & Physiology
  • General Biology



My major love in biology is “morphology”, which involves the structure of living things, especially at the microscope level, and how that structure relates to function. I’m also interested in how the structures of cells, tissues, and organs develop in vertebrate embryos, and how structure/function relationships sometimes fail in diseased tissues.

Teaching Interests:

Courses that I teach Siena include two "morphology" courses, Histology and Developmental Biology, as well as an advanced course in Pathobiology. Histology uses a microscopic approach to explore the structure and function of the  many types of specialized cells and tissues that make up the human body. In Developmental Biology, we look at how cells and tissues first differentiate in a developing embryo, and how they become organized into the many complex organs of an adult animal. Pathobiology, an upper level course for Histology “graduates”, explores how normal biological function and structure are disrupted in diseased cells, tissues, and organs.
In both the Histology and Developmental Biology courses, students conduct long-term independent projects that give extensive “hands on” experience with histological or embryological techniques. Histology projects involve creating and interpreting microscope slides, in order to ask questions about tissue structure and function, such as comparing tissues of different types of vertebrates. 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?


Research interests:

Although I did graduate research in Cell Biology, with a thesis on cilia, my postdoctoral studies at the University of Iowa led me to change my research interests to the area of developmental biology. My experimental organism is the chick embryo, a great model systems because they are easy to obtain, they feed themselves, and they don't bite! Chick embryos also are quite similar to humans in their early development, and therefore a study of chick development can reveal much about human embryology.  My research over the years has focused on a variety of topics, including: the development of skeletal tissues; tissue interactions in vertebrate limb development; development of tissue patterns in the vertebrate limb; the role of the cytoskeleton in cell differentiation; and the distribution of endocrine receptors in developing embryos. Students in my lab have approached these questions by using techniques of tissue culture, immunohistochemistry, and basic histology.

In addition to research, I enjoy doing digital photomicrography and have published photomicrographs in several popular textbooks and lab atlases. Also, I frequently present workshops to other college faculty on methods for incorporating histology and pathology into undergraduate curricula.


Representative Publications

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.

Zanetti, NC. 2005. Using Histopathology to teach Histology to Undergraduates. 

HAPS Educator, Spring, 2005. p. 9 - 10.