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Stem cell research boosted by prestigious Metcalf Prize

research grantA Monash scientist has received significant funding to further his ground-breaking stem cell research.
The National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia has announced that Associate Professor Jose Polo, will receive the inaugural $50,000 Metcalf Prize.
Named after Australia’s pioneering stem cell researcher, Professor Donald Metcalf AC, the prize will help to foster future pioneers in the field.
Associate Professor Polo’s work uses induced Pluripotent Stem (iPS) cells that are generated in the laboratory from the skin, blood or any other body cells by a process called “reprogramming”.
Associate Professor Polo said iPS cells have the capability to give rise to almost any different cell type, allowing the research team to study diseases, test new drugs and in the future potentially perform cellular transplants.
“Every cell is a library which contains the same set of genes or ‘books’, but they differ in terms of which ones are open and which are closed,” Associate Professor Polo said.
“For example, the library of blood vessel cells will have books on blood vessels that are open; the same applies to pancreatic cells. What I want to do is find the mechanism that opens and closes those books.”
Associate Professor Polo said the work could result in existing drugs being targeted more effectively.
“We now know that for example if a person has heart disease due to a genetic mutation, all the cells in the body will have that mutation, that genetic condition. But only your heart cells are affected by the mutation. Instead of testing potential drugs on a person, we can test them safely and effectively in the lab, by generating first the iPS cells from blood and then heart cells from these iPS cells. The potential of this technology is incredible. It could result in completely personalised medicine,” Associate Professor Polo said.
Only two people in Australia received the inaugural prize, with the prize given to one male and one female stem cell researcher.
Associate Professor Polo said the money will allow him to further his work and build links, both nationally and internationally.
“One of the things I really like about working in Australia is its collaborative environment, that’s really critical for stem cell research. This prize will allow me to present my work nationally and internationally and crucially foster new collaborations to help further this work,” Associate Professor Polo said.

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