Thursday, Apr. 21, 2011

Derrick Rossi

There's a lot of hope — not to mention hype — surrounding stem-cell science these days and a lot of patients waiting for researchers to come up with cures for diseases like diabetes and Parkinson's and a treatment for spinal-cord injuries using the technology. Thanks to Derrick Rossi, 45, they're that much closer to benefiting from those therapies.

Working with stem cells generated from a patient's own skin cells, Rossi has managed to rid them of the potentially dangerous genes and viruses that efficiently reprogram the older cells to their embryonic state but at the same time make them unsafe to transplant into patients because of their cancer-causing properties. With Rossi's method, a skin cell can erase its developmental history and emerge as a biological tabula rasa, primed to morph into any type of cell a patient might need to have replaced. It's not a cure — yet — but it's an important first step in turning the promise of stem cells into a lifesaving reality.