James Thomson receives 2008 Massry Prize honoring stem cell researchers

December 18, 2008

MADISON - James Thomson, director of regenerative biology at the Morgridge Institute for Research and John D. MacArthur Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health, has received the prestigious Massry Prize for 2008. The award recognizes Thomson for his groundbreaking discovery made a decade ago of human embryonic stem (ES) cells and his subsequent work in developing induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells.

The Meira and Shaul G. Massry Foundation established the Massry Prize in 1996 to recognize outstanding contributions to the biomedical sciences and the advancement of health. Founded by Shaul Massry, professor emeritus of medicine at the University of Southern California (USC), the nonprofit foundation promotes education and research in nephrology, physiology, and related fields. The Massry Prize includes a substantial honorarium and eight of its recipients have gone on to receive the Nobel Prize.

As the first to successfully isolate and culture human embryonic stem cells, Thomson's early work launched the field of stem cell science and was essential to the development of human iPS cells. "We are extremely proud of Dr. Thomson's accomplishments and his selection for the Massry Prize," states Sang Kim, executive director of the private, nonprofit Morgridge Institute for Research, part of the new Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery on the UW-Madison campus. "We are fortunate he has chosen to continue his breakthrough research on stem cells at the Morgridge Institute as the first member of our interdisciplinary scientific team."

Thomson shares the 2008 prize with two fellow stem cell researchers, each honored for contributions to stem cell science that led to the 2007 discovery of induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. "I am honored to be among the scientists selected for the Massry Prize," states Thomson, who believes stem cell science is moving forward even faster now.

"The problems we are addressing have become so complex that only through collaboration, and reaching across scientific disciplines, can we move research closer to making tangible improvements in human health," Thomson says. "Stem cells have the potential to help us find the root cause of disease, so we can prevent it, to test new drugs at the human cellular level and thereby reduce reliance on animal testing, and to offer regenerative therapies to patients."

Thomson predicts that within the next ten years, "We'll be able to make all clinically relevant cells in the body. But getting those cells into the body in a physiologically useful form is the most challenging part and involves every discipline in medicine."

UW-Madison Chancellor Carolyn "Biddy" Martin says the Massry Prize is welcome recognition of Thomson's pioneering work with human stem cells: "We're delighted, of course, that Dr. Thomson's accomplishments are recognized as the pioneering achievements that they are. Dr. Thomson's work has helped set a new biomedical field in motion with enormous potential to help improve the quality of our lives. His work deserves this kind of attention and more."

The new iPS cells are created by genetically reprogramming human adult skin cells. Like their source human ES cells, the iPS cells can become any type of cell in the body. Their discovery has helped spur the development of regenerative medicine and eased much of the controversy surrounding stem cell science by eliminating the need to use human embryos in the creation of pluripotent stem cells.

In addition to Thomson, the honorees for this year's award are: Shinya Yamanaka, professor and director, Center for iPS Cell Research and Application, Institute for Integrated Cell-Material Sciences, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan; and Rudolf Jaenisch, professor of biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Shaul G. Massry, professor emeritus at USC's Keck School of Medicine, says the 2008 prize that bears his name honors three individuals who were instrumental in discovering that cells from adult tissue such as skin could be reprogrammed back to an embryonic state. He calls the discovery "an amazing advance that opens broad new horizons for the application of stem cell technology."

Massry states that techniques pioneered by this year's winners are being refined worldwide to enhance their safety and applicability, and that experiments in animal models of transplantation therapy already have shown that iPS cells can provide tissue that is genetically matched to the recipient and not a target for immune rejection. Further, scientists already are using the technology to make patient-specific stem cell lines from individuals suffering from genetic diseases, enabling them to study how these diseases develop and to identify new therapeutic interventions.
-end-
The Morgridge Institute for Research is the private, nonprofit part of the Wisconsin Institutes for Discovery, a unique public-private initiative designed under one roof to facilitate interdisciplinary research and breakthrough discoveries to improve human health. Along with its public twin, the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery, the Morgridge Institute will open in 2010 in a new facility on the campus of UW-Madison, consistently ranked as one of the best-funded research universities in the U.S.

The $150 million facility for the institutes is made possible through a partnership that includes the State of Wisconsin, donors John and Tashia Morgridge, and the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation. Research at the Morgridge Institute will focus on facilitating collaborations across the fields of biology, computer science and bioengineering to advance medical discoveries. More information is available at http://morgridgeinstitute.org and http://discovery.wisc.edu.

University of Wisconsin-Madison

Related Stem Cells Articles from Brightsurf:

SUTD researchers create heart cells from stem cells using 3D printing
SUTD researchers 3D printed a micro-scaled physical device to demonstrate a new level of control in the directed differentiation of stem cells, enhancing the production of cardiomyocytes.

More selective elimination of leukemia stem cells and blood stem cells
Hematopoietic stem cells from a healthy donor can help patients suffering from acute leukemia.

Computer simulations visualize how DNA is recognized to convert cells into stem cells
Researchers of the Hubrecht Institute (KNAW - The Netherlands) and the Max Planck Institute in Münster (Germany) have revealed how an essential protein helps to activate genomic DNA during the conversion of regular adult human cells into stem cells.

First events in stem cells becoming specialized cells needed for organ development
Cell biologists at the University of Toronto shed light on the very first step stem cells go through to turn into the specialized cells that make up organs.

Surprising research result: All immature cells can develop into stem cells
New sensational study conducted at the University of Copenhagen disproves traditional knowledge of stem cell development.

The development of brain stem cells into new nerve cells and why this can lead to cancer
Stem cells are true Jacks-of-all-trades of our bodies, as they can turn into the many different cell types of all organs.

Healthy blood stem cells have as many DNA mutations as leukemic cells
Researchers from the Princess Máxima Center for Pediatric Oncology have shown that the number of mutations in healthy and leukemic blood stem cells does not differ.

New method grows brain cells from stem cells quickly and efficiently
Researchers at Lund University in Sweden have developed a faster method to generate functional brain cells, called astrocytes, from embryonic stem cells.

NUS researchers confine mature cells to turn them into stem cells
Recent research led by Professor G.V. Shivashankar of the Mechanobiology Institute at the National University of Singapore and the FIRC Institute of Molecular Oncology in Italy, has revealed that mature cells can be reprogrammed into re-deployable stem cells without direct genetic modification -- by confining them to a defined geometric space for an extended period of time.

Researchers develop a new method for turning skin cells into pluripotent stem cells
Researchers at the University of Helsinki, Finland, and Karolinska Institutet, Sweden, have for the first time succeeded in converting human skin cells into pluripotent stem cells by activating the cell's own genes.

Read More: Stem Cells News and Stem Cells Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.