The end of the year brought new recognition to Dr. Michael Rudnicki, one of Canada’s leading stem cell scientists and a member of the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation’s Board of Directors. Dr. Rudnicki has been appointed an Officer of the Order of Canada for contributing to scientific breakthroughs in the area of muscle development.
“Stem cell research is really an area of strategic strength in Canada,” Dr. Rudnicki, CEO and Scientific Director of the Stem Cell Network, told the Ottawa Citizen in its report of the latest appointments.
From the discovery of stem cells in 1961 by Drs. Jim Till and Ernest McCulloch until today, Canada has played a leading role in stem cell research. Clearly, Canadian researchers “desire a better country” or desiderantes meliorem patriam, as the motto of the Order of Canada says.
The Order of Canada recognizes outstanding lifelong contributions made by Canadians in different fields. The honour of the Officer is the second highest recognition, awarded for a lifetime of achievement and merit of a high degree, especially in service to Canada or to humanity at large. Dr. Rudnicki’s appointment means the Foundation’s Board of Directors now includes six Order of Canada honorees, including L. Jacques Ménard, who holds the highest rank awarded, Companion.
Other honorees include rock stars Jim Cuddy and Greg Keelor of Blue Rodeo and actress/filmmaker Sarah Polley.
Dr. Rudnicki is a Senior Scientist and the Director of the Regenerative Medicine Program and the Sprott Centre for Stem Cell Research at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute. He is also a Professor in the Department of Medicine at the University of Ottawa and holds the Canada Research Chair in Molecular Genetics.
His research focuses on the molecular mechanisms that regulate the determination, proliferation, and differentiation of stem cells tissue regeneration. His lab identified proteins that play a fundamental role in muscle stem cell function and that could be used to treat muscle diseases. Muscle diseases, such as Muscular Dystrophy in its different forms, are caused by genetic deficiency. There is hope that stem cells can help repair or replace damaged genes.