Stem Cell Expert Appointed Adjunct Professor at NUI Galway
Wednesday, 24 March 2010
Dr Alan Colman, a Principal Investigator in the A*STAR Institute of Medical Biology and Executive Director of the Singapore Stem Cell Consortium has been appointed Adjunct Professor of Fundamental Stem Cell Biology with the Regenerative Medicine Institute (REMEDI) at NUI Galway. Neurodegenerative and premature aging disease comprise a major focus of Dr Colman's work. His research involves developing induced pluripotent stem-cell-based laboratory models of human central nervous system diseases. Induced pluripotent stem cells are derived from adult fibroblasts and can be induced to have the ability to become any cell type in the body. Stem cells are a focus of interest because of their predicted potential to treat diseases by cell transplantation therapy. They are useful as models to study development and disease, as stem cells carrying or induced to carry defective genes can be investigated in vitro to understand disease characteristics. Modified cell lines can also be employed for drug screening towards developing novel pharmacological therapies. As Adjunct Professor at NUI Galway Dr Colman's laboratory will train researchers at REMEDI to make human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) using as the starting material skin biopsy material or other tissues (e.g. blood) that are available from human patients and volunteers. These iPS cells share many, if not all, the properties of human embryonic stem cells but are less controversial. iPS can be made from patients suffering from most congenital diseases and can be exploited both to learn more about the disease process as well as providing a virtually inexhaustible source of desired cell types for drug screening and discovery. Professor Tim O'Brien, Director of REMEDI states that the appointment of Alan Colman to an Adjunct Professorship at NUI Galway is very important for the strategic development of stem cell biology in Ireland. "Dr Coleman has substantial experience in iPS technology and the use of patient derived stem cells to understand human disease pathophysiology. This will lead to a greater understanding of disease and thus identification of new therapies. In addition iPS technology can be used for drug screening and in the future in donor specific cell transplantation. We are delighted that Alan has agreed to take up this position and look forward to collaborative work with the Singapore Stem Cell Institute". A graduate of Oxford University with a degree in Biochemistry, Colman earned a PhD under John Gurdon, a pioneer of the field of nuclear transfer, at the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, UK. Dr Colman held a series of academic appointments in Oxford and Warwick Universities before becoming a Professor of Biochemistry in the University of Birmingham. The focus of his academic career was the area of eukaryotic protein secretion, with a particular emphasis on the use of frog oocytes and eggs as in vivo test tubes. In 1987 he was elected as a member of the European Molecular Biology Organisation. From 1987 until March 2002, he was research director of the company PPL Therapeutics in Edinburgh, UK. This company specialised in the production of transgenic livestock that produced human therapeutic proteins in their milk. PPL attracted considerable media attention because of its participation, together with the Roslin Institute, in the technique of somatic nuclear transfer. This work led to Dolly, the world s first sheep cloned from an adult somatic cell in1996. REMEDI researchers will be trained in Dr Colman's lab in Singapore where the technology is established. It is planned that researchers once trained will return to Ireland and via national collaborations will transfer the technology to Irish researchers.