Fredonia professor’s work featured on ‘Grey’s Anatomy’

Tuesday November 27, 2018Avril King
whiteboard images
Whiteboard images created by Dr. Nicholas Quintyne.

Dr. Nicholas Quintyne, a professor of cell biology, was used to hearing from former students. However, he had never gotten a request quite like the one he received from Dr. Michael Metzner in early September.

Quintyne had known Metzner from his time teaching at the Wilkes Honors College of Florida Atlantic University.

Metzner, now an M.D., had decided to take a break from his surgical residency in San Antonio and began working as one of the surgical consultants on the set of “Grey’s Anatomy.”

“He’s an awfully good self-promoter, so obviously he found his opportunity,” said Quintyne.

Quintyne had been following Metzner’s success with the well-known hospital drama, but was surprised when Metzner asked him for help. Utilizing his standard colored-marker approach, Metzner wanted to know if Quintyne would be willing to create a whiteboard with different pathways and approaches to figuring out how to attack cancer cells for a scene in an upcoming episode.

“Just thought I’d ask before I made something up,” said Metzner in his email.

Quintyne agreed and, with one page of the script available for him to use, he created two sheets of cell-signaling pathways to be replicated on whiteboards for television.

After a prop meeting, where Metzner introduced the design, he reported back to Quintyne that his pathways had gotten a standing ovation.

Metzner had once been familiar with these types of pathways.

Generally beginning in cell biology, Quintyne’s students study cell signaling and pathways. As Biology majors reach their upper-level course work, however, they take a course on cancer biology. Here, they go into more detail on these pathways and how cancer gets in the way. He also has a course completely dedicated to cell signaling.

“From my perspective as a cell biologist — which is probably slightly biased — other than evolution, signaling in general is the most important part of biology,” said Quintyne. “That’s because everything relies on signaling. Every single cell in your body needs to know what the rest of your body is doing.”

In fact, he noted, many major diseases that have been studied have their roots in defects with cell signaling.

Quintyne included one of the proteins on the whiteboard as a nod to one of his former graduate students at Fredonia. HD-PTP is the focus of Max Griffin’s (Class of 2016) study for his Ph.D. at Emory University. Griffin had spoken during one of Quintyne’s classes this year, and in his talk, he discussed the Hippo pathway, one of the pathways that Quintyne included on his whiteboard.

The “Grey’s Anatomy” episode “Everyday Angel” aired on Oct. 25. In the background of one of the scenes, Quintyne’s pathways are visible for about 12 seconds.

Metzner has already alluded to Quintyne that the whiteboards may come back in a later episode. For now, “Everyday Angel” and the rest of “Grey’s Anatomy” is available for viewing on Netflix, Hulu and ABC Go.

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