3 Stem Cell Researchers Awarded $500K Prize

Posted on Mar 23, 2011
Three stem cell researchers were awarded the Albany Medical Center Prize in Medicine and Biomedical Research for their work in human stem cells.  The winners were Elaine Fuchs, Rockefeller University in New York City; James A. Thomson, Morgridge Institute for Research and the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health; and Shinya Yamanaka, Kyoto University in Japan and Gladstone Institute of Cardiovascular Disease in San Francisco.  These three will share the $500K prize which is largest award in medicine and science in the United States.

James Barba, President and CEO of the Albany Medical Center, said the discoveries made will help researchers develop new treatments for diseases like diabetes, Parkinson's, spinal cord injury, and cancer.  In a statement, Barba said: "The solutions to these debilitating diseases and many, many others that plague humans might very well be found through the science of stem cells."

Stem cells are unique because of their versatility.  These cells can transform into any cell in the human body.  Yamanaka and Thomson are credited with discovering how to genetically reprogram adult human cells back to an embryonic state.  This was reported as a major scientific breakthrough in 2007, and the cell lines, which are now used in laboratories worldwide, speed up stem cell research by offering the alternative to actual embryonic stem cells.

Fuch's, the third winner, has focused her work on the biology of stem cells.  She has worked in understand how stem cells make skin and how and how they repair wounds.  These discoveries and advances have led her laboratory to the genetic bases of human skin disorders, including cancers.