Leading science, pioneering therapies

PhD student Tyson Ruetz wins Wilmut Prize

18 November 2014

The MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine (CRM) acknowledges the hard work of our PhD students and the contributions these students make towards the CRM and to the scientific community.

Using funds that were donated to mark Professor Sir Ian Wilmut’s retirement, the CRM has established a  tradition of awarding   ‘The Wilmut Prize” to the best final year PhD student.

All final year students were assessed on the quality and quantity of the scientific data that they generated in their PhD project as well as their presentation and question handling skills. The top 3 students were invited to present at the CRM annual retreat where the best student was selected.

The 2014 winner of the £1000 Wilmut Prize was Tyson Ruetz, from Keisuke Kaji's group.

Commenting on reception of the prize Tyson said:

“I am incredibly honored for the opportunity I had to present my work at our retreat and to have won the Wilmut Prize! It makes it even more special to have received the award directly from Prof Sir Ian Wilmut.” 

“I will likely put the money toward attending the stem cell Keystone Symposium next year, the same meeting in which Prof Shinya Yamanaka first revealed the Nobel Prize winning research that is the foundation of my work.”

Tyson’s work focuses on the forced reprogramming of tissue specific cells into stem cells and other clinically relevant cell types. The resultant reprogrammed or trans-differentiated cells represent a potential unlimited source of cells for disease modeling and ultimately for patient specific disease treatments. However, forced cell identity changes are generally inefficient, and rely upon a minute fraction of starting cells reprogramming to the desired cell type, highlighting the lack of knowledge of the underlying processes. First attempting to elucidate the underlying mechanisms of reprogramming skin cells to stem cells, Tyson identified a core protein network that could be used as a tool to immensely boost reprogramming efficiency. He then proceeded to test the ability of the protein to orchestrate other forced cell identity changes, having great success in accelerating the process of generating mature Neurons from skin and converting immune cells from one type to another. His results have revealed a powerful tool, which could be used to generate many diverse and clinically relevant cells types.

At the annual retreat another prize, the ‘Outstanding Contribution Award’, was given to Helen Henderson and Marilyn Thomson, CRM’s tissue culture facility technicians. Both Helen and Marilyn have been supporting our researchers in looking after their cells for many, many years.