Primate Center stem cell news

Primate Center stem cell beginnings

Stem cell blastocysts

Stem Cell Blastocysts: Vivienne Marshall's classic photo of marmoset blastocysts from the 1990s. (See Spring 1997 Centerline for some marmoset ES cell history.)

  • 1995-James Thomson became the first to successfully isolate and culture rhesus monkey embryonic stem (ES) cells at the Wisconsin Regional Primate Research Center (PNAS).
  • 1996-Thomson repeated this feat with common marmoset ES cells (Biol Reprod).
  • 1998-Thomson published the neural differentiation of rhesus ES cells (APMIS).
  • 1998-Thomson's famous breakthrough growing human ES (hES) cells was published in Science. (This research occurred off campus, with private funding.)

Many subsequent hES cell "firsts" were accomplished by scientists who trained extensively with James Thomson and/or Ted Golos, core reproduction and development scientists at the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center. These highlights include the following accomplishments:

  • 2003-Post-doctoral trainee Thomas Zwaka ( (now at Baylor College of Medicine) achieved homologous recombination with hES cells. A method for recombining segments of DNA within stem cells, the technique made it possible to manipulate any part of the human genome to study gene function and mimic human disease in the laboratory dish (Nature Biotechnology).
  • 2004-Post-doctoral trainee Behzad Gerami-Naini ( (now at Harvard University) developed a hES model that mimics the formation of the placenta, giving researchers a new window on early development (Endocrinology).
  • 2005-WiCell's Ren-He Xu, ( previously a post-doctoral trainee at the WNPRC (now at University of Connecticut), grew hES cells in the absence of mouse-derived feeder cells (Nature Methods).
  • 2006-WNPRC scientist Igor Slukvin, ( and his post-doc Maxim Vodyanik became the first to culture lymphocytes and dendritic cells from human ES cells (Blood, J Immunol).
  • 2006-Tenneille Ludwig, ( a 10-year scientist (grad student/post-doc/assistant scientist through the Primate Center with Barry Bavister, then James Thomson), formulated a media that will support hES cells without the need for contaminating animal products (Nature Biotechnology). Co-authoring the work was another former Primate Center post-doc, Mark Levenstein (now at WiCell).

Primate Center stem cell scientists are now members of the Stem Cell & Regenerative Medicine Center (SCRMC) on campus. The WNPRC and SCRMC also work closely together to provide active public outreach programs.