Tuesday, November 04, 2014

Researcher Takahashi Honored as Stem Cell Person of the Year

Riken photo

Masayo Takahashi, the scientist in Japan who is leading the first clinical trial involving reprogrammed adult stem cells, today was named the stem cell person of the year.

The announcement was made by Paul Knoepfler, the UC Davis stem cell researcher who sponsors the award and personally funds its $2,000 prize.

Knoepfler said,
“In an astonishing feat, Takahashi's team transplanted its first macular degeneration patient recently on September 12, only 7 years after human IPSCs (induced pluripotent stem cells) were first ever published.”
The development of IPS cells, which also originated in Japan, has been hailed because they remove the moral objections that some persons have concerning the use of human embryonic stem cells. Many scientists, however, continue to consider the human cells as the gold standard.

Takahashi is a physician-scientist and a faculty member and project leader at the Laboratory of Retinal Regeneration at the Center for Developmental Biology at RIKEN.

Last December, Takahashi said she was wary of the high economic expectations surrounding potential stem cell therapies. In an article in the Financial Times by Jonathan Soble, she said, 
“Start-up companies are already involved and the road to commercialization is there, but to assume that the concept of iPSCs and regenerative medicine will yield a lot of money is na├»ve. Only parts of the field will become industries. It’s dangerous to think that all of regenerative medicine will.”
Takahashi was introduced to the field of stem science in 1995 when she followed her husband to the Salk Institute in the San Diego area in California.

Soble wrote,
“Paradoxically, because she had chosen clinical research, academia’s mix of glass-ceiling sexism and disdain for applied science worked in her favor. ‘I could do what I wanted because I was a woman,’ she says. ‘I didn’t think about career advancement.’”
She said barriers to women in science have largely disappeared in Japan although the comment was made before the STAP scandal that involved Riken. A key figure in the STAP research was a woman scientist, and persons prejudiced against women in science may well to use it to justify their biases.

Takahashi did say last year that traditional cultural values remain a problem in Japan. She said,
“'Japanese women don’t want to stand out, they don’t want to be leaders. They don’t think, ‘I want to have my own lab and reach the top in my field.’ I certainly didn’t until Salk.’ But Dr. Takahashi believes things are changing, in part because of the growing number of role models such as herself. ‘Sometimes,’ she says, ‘I meet young women who tell me, ‘You’re cool.’”
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1 comment:

  1. This is a well-deserve honor for Dr. Takahashi. She will always be known as the pioneer in clinical use of iPSCs. Congratulations!

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