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Epigenetics from Transgenic Mice to Stem Cells

A conversation with Rudolf Jaenisch

32 minutes
Rudolf Jaenisch


Rudolf Jaenisch discusses his early work creating transgenic and knock-out mice, how that lead to his work on epigenetics and stem cells, and provides a realistic update on how stem cell research will lead treatments.

See his Stem Cell Meeting on the Mesa 2011 keynote lecture here.

Rudolf Jaenisch received his doctorate in medicine from the University of Munich in 1967. Before Whitehead, he was head of the Department of Tumor Virology at the Heinrich Pette Institute at the University of Hamburg. He has coauthored more than 375 research papers and has received numerous prizes and recognitions, including an appointment to the National Academy of Sciences in 2003. Dr. Jaenisch focuses on understanding epigenetic regulation of gene expression (the biological mechanisms that affect how genetic information is converted into cell structures, but that don’t alter the genes in the process). Most recently, this work has led to major advances in our understanding of embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem (IPS) cells, which appear identical to embryonic stem cells but can be created from adult cells without using an egg.

In 2007, the Jaenisch Lab was one of three labs worldwide that reported successfully taking cells from mouse tails and reprogramming them into IPS cells, by over-expressing four master gene regulators. Later that year, the lab followed up by further manipulating IPS cells to treat sickle-cell anemia in mice, the first proof in principle of therapeutic use of such cells. In 2008, the lab reported that neurons derived from IPS cells successfully integrated into fetal mouse brains and reduced symptoms in a Parkinson’s disease rat model. In another experiment, researchers demonstrated that fully mature, differentiated mouse B cells can be reprogrammed to IPS cells.