Recorded: 07 Jun 2004
I’d been working on the worms, C. elegans and in four years I moved to the Hubrecht Laboratory, which is a place that is really strong in vertebrate embryology I think there was an opportunity to work on what you could say is the C. elegans of the vertebrate world because the zebrafish has some of the same properties like, it is a transparent embryo so you can see development from the first cell division on to the complete animal. In front of your eyes at room temperature, in water. With mice there’s always a uterus and a mother around it, you don’t need that mother, right? It’s in the way if you want to analyze development.
So, of course, we may not be able to do what we can do for the worm to get the whole lineage, but at least you can see the initial stages of development right there. And also, there are thousands of mutants swimming around for the fish and fifteen years ago we had thousands of mutants crawling around for the worm. So the field is really in the same stage as that of the worm fields fifteen, twenty years ago.
Yes, I do think that the zebrafish will be a model organism for how development of a vertebrate will happen.
Ronald Plasterk, is a Dutch politician of the Labour Party and successful scientist and molecular genetics. He studied biology at the Leiden University and economics at the University of Amsterdam. In 1981 he received the Dutch doctorandus degree in biology. In 1984 he earned a doctorate in mathematics and natural sciences from the University of Leiden.
After receiving his Ph.D. he moved to California Institute of Technology in Pasadena and worked as a post-doc (1985-1986) on the transposon sequences in DNA in the parasite Borrelia hermsii. Plasterk was also a post-doc at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge (1986-1987) where he studied Caenorhabditis elegans, a nematode that is used as a model organism. His major area of research include genetics and functional genomics.
He came back to the Netherlands in 1987 and became a group leader and member of the board of the Netherlands Cancer Institute in Amsterdam. Between 1989 and 2000 he was director of the research school of oncology at the institute. From 1997 till 2000 he was professor of molecular genetics at the University of Amsterdam. In 2000 was appointed director of the Netherlands Institute for Developmental Biology (Hubrecht Laboratory) and at the same time he was a professor in developmental genetics at Utrecht University.
In February 2007 Ronald Plasterek was appointed minister of Education, Culture and Science in the fourth Balkenende government and he decided to end his scientific career. He held this position until February 2010. He is a member of the House of Representatives and Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences.
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