Janet Rossant

Arriving in Canada in 1977, Janet quickly became an international superstar in the field of stem cell research. Her groundbreaking work demonstrated the staggering capabilities of pluripotent stem cells after creating a whole mouse from a single stem cell. Her ongoing work has revealed important findings in understanding the development of the placenta in pregnancy and the roles stem cells may play in life-threatening conditions such as pre-eclampsia. Janet is Chief of Research at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.

The Power In One Cell

The full power of stem cells was unknown until relatively recently. In the 1990s, Janet Rossant set out to investigate whether embryonic stem cells are limited to specific functions and cell types (as was thought at the time), or as she suspected, they have the potential to generate any type of cell.

She had her ground-breaking answer when she and her team succeeded in growing a whole mouse — starting with one single embryonic stem cell. It proved without a doubt that embryonic stem cells are different from adult cells and that they are capable of forming any cell in the human body — the cells that form every organ, every muscle, every bone. Plus, they can divide indefinitely, making many, many copies of themselves.

Establishing this proved to be a dramatic turning-point for stem cell  science. Suddenly it became possible to see their almost unlimited potential. And scientists saw that harnessing the power of these cells could very possibly provide an endless source of cells to treat a vast number of conditions and diseases that require tissue regeneration. With that one mouse, the power of a single embryonic stem cell became indisputable.