Examining changes to DNA that affect the fate of Stem Cells

Professor Azim Surani (University of Cambridge) / Assistant Professor  Jacob (Yaqub) Hanna (Weizmann Institute of Science)

Stem cell research holds great promise for creating reprogrammed stem cells, customised to be genetically identical to a patient, that replace damaged tissue upon transplantation. 

This project examines the molecular mechanisms of reprogrammed stem cell formation. Better understanding of the way cells are manipulated back into the embryonic stem cell state will hopefully result in safer and more efficient methods of generating these cells.

About the Researchers

Professor Azim Surani 

Professor Surani is Director of Germline and Epigenomics Research, and a member of the Physiology, Development and Neuroscience Department

Professor Surani obtained his PhD in Mammalian Development at the University of Cambridge in 1975 and established an independent laboratory at the Babraham Institute in 1979 as a Senior Principle Investigator. In 1991 he returned to the University of Cambridge as the Marshall-Walton Professor at the Wellcome Trust/Cancer Research UK Gurdon Institute of Cancer and Developmental Biology.

In 2014, Prof Surani received the ISSCR McEwen Award for Innovation.

Dr Jacob (Yaqub) Hanna

Department of Molecular Genetics, Weizmann Institute of Science

Dr Hanna completed an M.D. Ph.D degree from the Hebrew University in 2007, and  conducted a postdoctoral fellowship with Rudolf Jaenisch at MIT focusing on epigenetic reprogramming to pluripotency. Since March 2011, he has been an assistant professor at the Weizmann Institute of Science.

 “Our lab has made significant advances towards isolating and defining authentic early embryonic stem cell with unrestricted developmental potential. We are joining forces with the Surani lab, a world expert on sperm and oocyte development, to use our unique stem cells to generate human sperm and oocytes robustly in the petri dish. We believe this is feasible only by combining great expertise accumulated in both labs, to bring this goal closer to reality.”

Jacob (Yaqub) Hanna

Dr Hana and his group have discovered that removing one protein from adult cells enables them to efficiently turn back the clock to a stem-cell-like state. 

Read about this breakthrough research.

This work lays the foundation for the collaborative research with Professor Azim Surani from the University of Cambridge supported by the BIRAX Regenerative Medicine Initiative.