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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

  • Stem cells: How we got here, where we're going

    This is the first in a series of four videos about stem cell research at UW–Madison: how it started, what it's achieved, and where it's headed. Catch up on what's happened since James Thomson's prescient prediction that stem cells "will change medicine, period." 

  • New gene editing tool drives stem cell services and discovery

    At just two-and-a-half years old, the University of Wisconsin–Madison Human Stem Cell Gene Editing Service is already contemplating expansion, partly because of demand for a new gene editing tool called CRISPR-Cas9.

  • Five questions with Su-Chun Zhang, forger of brain cells

    In light of the 20th anniversary of James Thomson’s derivation of human embryonic stem cells, we had some questions for one of the founders of stem cell neuroscience.

  • After 20 years, stem cells mean business in Wisconsin

    At least 10 Wisconsin businesses fundamentally depend, in one way or another, on pluripotent stem cells. In our continuing series, we profile each of these companies, spun off from UW–Madison research.

  • Randolph Ashton named SCRMC associate director

    Ashton, a leading UW–Madison stem cell scientist whose lab develops novel tissue engineering methods to derive brain and spinal cord tissues from human pluripotent stem cells, will assume a leadership position with the Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Center.

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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.