Canadian stem cell pioneer dies

January 21, 2011
Stem cells are viewed on a computer screen at the University of Connecticut`s (UConn) Stem Cell Institute in 2010. Ernest McCulloch, a Canadian researcher who was part of a team that first proved the existence of stem cells more than five decades ago died this week at the age of 84, his colleagues said Friday.

Ernest McCulloch, a Canadian researcher who was part of a team that first proved the existence of stem cells more than five decades ago died this week at the age of 84, his colleagues said Friday.

McCulloch and his research partner James Till together created the first method for identifying stem cells in mice, and their work is credited with revolutionizing the field of cell biology and the treatment of chronic disease.

Many had speculated they could have won the for their groundbreaking work. The pair was nominated in 2009 but did not win. The prize cannot be awarded posthumously.

"Scientists around the world can trace their 'lineage' to Dr McCulloch, and as their work progresses, so too does his influence," said a statement by the Canadian Stem Cell Foundation.

McCulloch died on Wednesday, just days away from the 50th anniversary of his discovery, the foundation said. No cause of death was given.

"I feel a strong sense of loss," Till told AFP in an email. "Dr McCulloch was a trusted and creative colleague, and a supportive and steadfast friend."

The man who went by the nickname "Bun" was considered a pioneer in the field.

"In addition to providing detailed information about blood cell development, they (McCulloch and Till) established the concept of stem cells and set the framework in which stem cells are studied today," said the Canadian Medical Hall of Fame, into which McCulloch was inducted in 2004.

"Their work gains a new freshness with the current interest in harnessing the developmental program of for therapeutic purposes."

In 2005, the pair received the Albert Lasker Award for Basic Medical Research, seen by many as a likely predictor of a Nobel Prize.

McCulloch was born in Toronto on April 26, 1926. He was also a lead researcher at the Ontario Cancer Institute and the Institute of Medical Science at the University of Toronto.

He previously served as president of the Academy of Science of the Royal Society of Canada, and was a fellow of the Royal Society of London.

Explore further: From stem cells to organs: The bioengineering challenge

Related Stories

From stem cells to organs: The bioengineering challenge

February 16, 2008

For more than a decade, Peter Zandstra has been working at the University of Toronto to rev up the production of stem cells and their descendants. The raw materials are adult blood stem cells and embryonic stem cells. The ...

Stem cell pioneers among Nobel Prize candidates

October 4, 2009

(AP) -- Two Canadian scientists whose discovery of stem cells has paved the way for controversial research could be candidates for the 2009 Nobel Prize in medicine, the winners of which will be announced Monday.

Japanese stem cell researcher wins Balzan prize

September 6, 2010

(AP) -- The Balzan Foundation says its prize for the biology of stem cells has gone to a Japanese researcher for discovering a way to transform adult cells into cells with the characteristics of stem cells.

Stem cell pioneer mentioned for Nobel Prize

October 3, 2010

(AP) -- A Japanese researcher who discovered how to make stem cells from ordinary skin cells and avoid the ethical quandaries of making them from human eggs could be a candidate for the medicine award when the 2010 Nobel ...

Recommended for you

Study suggests fish can experience 'emotional fever'

November 25, 2015

(—A small team of researchers from the U.K. and Spain has found via lab study that at least one type of fish is capable of experiencing 'emotional fever,' which suggests it may qualify as a sentient being. In their ...

New gene map reveals cancer's Achilles heel

November 25, 2015

Scientists have mapped out the genes that keep our cells alive, creating a long-awaited foothold for understanding how our genome works and which genes are crucial in disease like cancer.

How cells in the developing ear 'practice' hearing

November 25, 2015

Before the fluid of the middle ear drains and sound waves penetrate for the first time, the inner ear cells of newborn rodents practice for their big debut. Researchers at Johns Hopkins report they have figured out the molecular ...

How cells 'climb' to build fruit fly tracheas

November 25, 2015

Fruit fly windpipes are much more like human blood vessels than the entryway to human lungs. To create that intricate network, fly embryonic cells must sprout "fingers" and crawl into place. Now researchers at The Johns Hopkins ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.