They are dropping like flies this vacation. ROME (AP) â€” Rita Levi-Montalcini, a biologist who conducted underground research in defiance of Fascist persecution and went on to win a Nobel Prize for helping unlock the mysteries of the cell, died at her home in Rome on Sunday. She was 103 and had worked well into her final years. Rome Mayor Gianni Alemanno, who announced her death in a statement, called it a great loss "for all of humanity." He praised her as someone who represented "civic conscience, culture and the spirit of research of our time." Italy's so-called "Lady of the Cells," a Jew who lived through anti-Semitic discrimination and the Nazi invasion, became one of her country's leading scientists and shared the Nobel medicine prize in 1986 with American biochemist Stanley Cohen for their groundbreaking research carried out in the United States. Her research increased the understanding of many conditions, including tumors, developmental malformations, and senile dementia.