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Stem Cells, Pluripotency and Nuclear Reprogramming
Wednesday, March 12, 2008,
3:00:00 PM Time displayed is Eastern Time, Washington DC Local
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One of the key issues raised by nuclear cloning is the question of genomic reprogramming, i.e. the mechanism of resetting the epigenetic modifications that are characteristics of the adult donor nucleus to ones that are appropriate for an embryonic cell. The mechanisms by which embryonic stem
(ES) cells self-renew while maintaining the ability to differentiate into virtually all adult cell types are not well understood. Major progress has been achieved to understand the molecular circuitry of pluripotency and self-renewal. This information provides crucial insights into mechanisms by which pluripotent cells may be stimulated to differentiate into different cell types or by which somatic cells might be reprogrammed back to the pluripotent state by exposure of the somatic nucleus to the egg cytoplasm. Our most recent results achieving reprogramming of somatic cells in vitro without the need of nuclear transplantation and the potential of reprogrammed cells for customized therapy will be summarized.
Rudolf Jaenisch received his M.D. degree from the University of Munich in 1967. After postdoctoral research at Princeton and the Fox Chase Cancer Center, he first joined the faculty at the Salk Institute and later became Head of the Department of Tumor Virology of the Heinrich-Pette Institute in Hamburg. Since 1984 he has been a Founding Member of the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and a Professor of Biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and in 2005 he established the Human Stem Cell Facility at the Whitehead.
Dr. Jaenisch is a pioneer in making transgenic mice, some of which have produced important advances in understanding cancer, neurological and connective tissue diseases, and developmental abnormalities. These methods have been used to explore basic questions such as the role of DNA modification, genomic imprinting, X chromosome inactivation, nuclear cloning, and, most recently, the nature of stem cells. The Jaenisch laboratory is known for its expertise in cloning mice and in studying the many factors that contribute to the success and failure of that process. They have gained important insights into therapeutic cloning, and have indeed rescued mice having a genetic defect through therapeutic cloning and gene therapy. In addition, using mice as a model and a technique called “altered nuclear transfer,” the Jaenisch lab has demonstrated that it is possible to procure embryonic stem cells without harming a viable embryo. Most recently the lab has demonstrated that somatic cells can be reprogrammed in vitro to pluripotent ES-like cells and that these cells are suitable to correct a genetic defect in mice by transplantation therapy.
Dr. Jaenisch has coauthored more than 370 research papers and has received numerous prizes and recognitions, including an appointment to the National Academy of Sciences in 2003, the First Peter Gruber Foundation Award in Genetics, the Robert Koch Prize for Excellence in Scientific Achievement, the Charles Rodolphe Brupracher Foundation Cancer Award, the Max Delbrück Medal for Molecular Medicine and the Vilcek Foundation Prize for Achievements of Prominent Immigrants