Hans Clevers on Stem Cell Research
  Hans Clevers     Biography    
Recorded: 29 May 2008

Yeah, I think the hopes of stem cell biologist is that they will come up with protocols by which one can take cells from a patient, cure them if the patient has a genetic disease, or replace a bad gene with a good gene, for instance. Or in case, for instance, where a heart is failing due to a cardiac infection, so we hope to replace that muscle tissue. So that’s, I think, where we hope to help clinical problems; so take stem cells, use them to build tissue, or use them to create good genes and build good tissue for patients who [unintelligible]. Different diseases will have different therapies, some diseases are very important and are incurable by any other means, like many neurodegenerative diseases, the bad genetic diseases, and for those this is probably the only way by which ultimately we can cure patients.

Yes, I think it’s very complex, so the general public, and again, more so in the U.S. than in Europe, doesn’t see the difference easily between embryonicly derived stem cells and adult stem cells. So, I don’t think that people who understand what adult stem cells are, that they would have any ethical issues with that, other than when you issues with blood—fusions, for instance, some religions don’t allow you to transfer blood from one patient to the other, and … what was the question again?

Yeah, so, so I think the complexity of this field is rapidly growing, makes it difficult for the public to form a real opinion on what is needed, what is not allowed, what is--should not be done by the scientists in a particular country. And I don’t think that current modern people really take the time to understand, so we have to come up with short, easy explanations.

Well, there have been stem cell therapies for thirty years, bone marrow transplantation is a stem cell therapy. A more recent one that is slowly spreading throughout the west is the expansion of stem cell derived from skin, with which you can treat burn patients. So people have made up to a square meter of new skin from stem cells from patients that sometimes have lost eighty percent of their skin due to burning.

Hans Clevers obtained his MD degree in 1984 and his PhD degree in 1985 from the University Utrecht, the Netherlands. His postdoctoral work (1986-1989) was done with Cox Terhorst at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute of the Harvard University, Boston, USA.

From 1991-2002 Hans Clevers was Professor in Immunology at the University Utrecht and, since 2002, Professor in Molecular Genetics. Since 2002, he is director of the Hubrecht Institute in Utrecht.

Hans Clevers has been a member of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences since 2000 and is the recipient of several awards, including the Dutch Spinoza Award in 2001, the Swiss Louis Jeantet Prize in 2004, the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Katharine Berkan Judd Award in 2005, the Israeli Rabbi Shai Shacknai Memorial Prize in 2006, and the Dutch Josephine Nefkens Prize for Cancer Research and the German Meyenburg Cancer Research Award in 2008. He obtained an ERC Advanced Investigator grant in 2008. He is Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur since 2005.


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