Scientist honoured for stem-cell coup

(Stem Cells News image)

Flip past the big photo on page 65 of beaming software magnate Bill Gates and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and there, on page 67, beside a picture of U.S. president Barack Obama, is a microscope image of a cell.

That induced embryonic stem cell has vaulted Toronto scientist Andras Nagy into this high-flying company in Scientific Magazine’s inaugural Top 10 awards for work in science-related endeavours.

“It’s an enormous honour and a recognition of the science we do in the lab, and what we do in Mount Sinai, and what we do in Toronto and what we do in Canada,” says Nagy, an investigator at Mount Sinai Hospital who nabbed his award for a genetic coup, announced in February, that may well change the face of stem-cell biology.

Nagy’s team at Mount Sinai’s Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute won a global race to find a safe way to transform adult skin cells into embryonic-like stem cells.

While it had been shown before that this reprogramming could be achieved, past methods had dangerously contaminated the resulting stem cell, Nagy explains.

He says under previous methods, the new stem cells, which like the real embryonic version can transform into any tissue type, still contained the reprogramming material and the DNA of the viruses used to transport it into the adult cell’s nucleus.

His method, however, enables scientists to introduce the reprogramming material without a viral transporter and then draw it back out again after it has accomplished the transformation.

“In effect, Nagy and his colleagues had, for the first time, created the equivalent of embryonic stem cells that were uncontroversially ethical, safe and efficient,” the magazine wrote in the June issue, released today.

Using patients’ own transformed cells for organ repair would allow them to avoid the immune system rejection that plagues all person-to person transplantation.

Nagy, for one, sees a legitimate fit to his prestigious Obama pairing.

“The heavy science that we do at Mount Sinai for humanity is there beside (Obama’s) massive, massive message that science is important for society and the economy,” Nagy said.

from The Star

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