Rudolf Jaenisch awarded 2008 Cozzarelli Prize from PNAS

February 23, 2009

Tags: Jaenisch Lab

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. —Whitehead Member Rudolf Jaenisch has been awarded the 2008 Cozzarelli Prize from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).  Jaenisch’s PNAS article “Neurons derived from reprogrammed fibroblasts functionally integrate into the fetal brain and improve symptoms of rats with Parkinson's disease" was recognized for its scientific excellence and originality in the field of biomedical sciences.

Recipients of the Cozzarelli Prize are chosen from the PNAS research articles published in a year.  Six prizes are awarded, one for each of the National Academy of Sciences’ broad organizational categories: Physical and Mathematical Sciences; Biological Sciences; Engineering and Applied Sciences; Biomedical Sciences; Behavioral and Social Sciences; and Applied Biological, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences.

In Jaenisch’s winning article, researchers in his laboratory reported that they had differentiated neurons from embryonic stem cell-like cells, called induced pluripotent stem cells (IPS cells). These neural cells were then transplanted into fetal mouse brains.  Nine weeks after birth, the neural cells had migrated extensively into the surrounding brain tissues and functionally integrated into the brain.

In the second half of the experiment, the lab created dopamine-producing neurons from iPS cells. In Parkinson’s disease, dopamine-producing neurons are damaged or die. The lab’s cultured neurons were grafted into the brains of a Parkinson’s disease rat model.  After treatment, the rats showed markedly less pronounced Parkinson’s symptoms.

According to Marius Wernig, first author on the article and former Jaenisch postdoctoral researcher, this was the first time iPS cells were shown to integrate into the neural system or positively impact a neurodegenerative disease.

"This experiment shows that in vitro reprogrammed cells can in principle be used to treat Parkinson's disease," Jaenisch said at the time the award-winning paper was published. "It's a proof of principle experiment that argues, yes, these cells may have the therapeutic promise that people ascribe to them."

Researchers hope that iPS cells eventually may treat other diseases, such as diabetes.

Written by Nicole Giese Rura.

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Rudolf Jaenisch’s primary affiliation is with Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, where his laboratory is located and all his research is conducted. He is also a professor of biology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

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Full Citation:

PNAS, April 15, 2008 vol. 105 no. 15 5856-5861

"Neurons derived from reprogrammed fibroblasts functionally integrate into the fetal brain and improve symptoms of adult rats with Parkinson's"

Authors: Marius Wernig (1), Jian-Ping Zhao (2), Jan Pruszak (3), Eva Hedlund (3), Dongdong Fu (1), Frank Soldner (1), Vania Broccoli (4), Martha Constantine-Paton (2), Ole Isacson (3), Rudolf Jaenisch (1,5)

(1) Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research, Cambridge, MA
(2) The McGovern Institute for Brain Research, MIT, Cambridge, MA 02139 USA
(3) Udall Parkinson's Disease Research Center of Excellence and Neuroregeneration Laboratories, McLean Hospital/Harvard University, Belmont, Massachusetts 02478 USA
(4) San Raffaele Scientific Institute, 20132 Milan, Italy
(5) Department of Biology, MIT, Cambridge, MA 02139 USA

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Reprogrammed cells reduce Parkinson's symptoms in rats

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