Elizabeth Dexter Hay (1927–2007)
Elizabeth Dexter Hay studied the cellular processes that affect development of embryos in the US during the mid-twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. In 1974, Hay showed that the extracellular matrix, a collection of structural molecules that surround cells, influences cell behavior. Cell growth, cell migration, and gene expression are influenced by the interaction between cells and their extracellular matrix. Hay also discovered a phenomenon later called epithelial-mesenchymal transition, a process that occurs during normal embryo and adult development in which epithelial cells, cells that line external and internal surfaces of the body, transform into mesenchymal stem cells, connective tissue cells that are capable of turning into other cell types. Hay's work helped researchers explain normal developmental processes and enabled research into abnormal processes that can cause developmental defects and diseases.