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Stem Cells

at UW–Madison

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In 1998, UW–Madison developmental biologist James Thomson introduced the world to the first laboratory-derived human embryonic stem cells. His lab's accomplishment underpins the new field of regenerative medicine, and the all-purpose cells are used worldwide to test drugs, develop treatments for diseases and further our understanding of basic human biology. Twenty years later, UW–Madison remains at the forefront, an internationally recognized leader in stem cell research.

The Morgridge Institute for Research Presents

Immortal: An oral history of stem cell discovery

In November 1998, the journal Science published James Thomson's groundbreaking work on embryonic stem cells. There has been 20 years of progress since the initial discovery spawned a new field of research, and tremendous potential exists for the future. We reached out to the people who lived it, and they shared the experiences in their own words. This is their story.

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Stem Cell News

  • Clinical prospects for stem cells begin to emerge

    Responsible science is almost always a slow, grueling process, but 20 years after James Thomson derived the first human embryonic stem cell lines, experts in the field of stem cell and regenerative medicine feel more optimistic than ever.

  • A starring role for nonhuman primates in the stem cell story

    “If UW–Madison is the birthplace of human embryonic stem cells, then the Primate Research Center is the cradle,” says Marina Emborg, director of the center's Preclinical Parkinson's Research Program.

  • Finding a weak link in the frightful parasite Schistosoma

    More than 250 million people, mostly in Africa and Asia, have schistosomiasis, which kills an estimated 280,000 each year. “We don’t get that many aha! moments in our lives as scientists,” says a researcher. “This was one of them.”

  • Cell therapy is the future, and Wisconsin is the place, UW–Madison expert tells Technology Council

    UW–Madison has doctors willing to guide the studies that will make or break cell therapy companies. “If you are a clinician, you need a pioneer spirit to do something that has never been done before,” Jacques Galipeau says, “and there are already many like that here.”

  • Study points researchers toward new therapies for fragile X syndrome

    A UW–Madison study showed that the absence of the protein FMRP can unbalance critical molecular processes within adult brain cells and lead to the neural and cognitive changes seen in fragile X.

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As of late 2017, there were 18 clinical trials using embryonic stem cells in six countries.


The number of people — faculty, staff, students — working in labs conducting stem cell or regenerative medicine research on the UW–Madison campus.


The number of stem cell–related patents issued to the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation as of May 2018.