Renowned stem-cell researcher to present Alumni Fellow seminar

University Park, Pa. -- Acclaimed scientist John D. Gearhart, a 1964 graduate of Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences, will present a special seminar titled "Instructing Ourselves to Rebuild Our Bodies" at 3 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 22, in 324 Agricultural Sciences and Industries Building on the University Park campus.

The seminar is in conjunction with Gearhart's recognition as a university Alumni Fellow, the most prestigious honor bestowed on a graduate by the Penn State Alumni Association.

Gearhart is the James W. Effron University professor and director of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. He also is a professor of cell and developmental biology in Penn's School of Medicine.

Gearhart is a developmental geneticist whose work over the past several decades has been directed at understanding the molecular and cellular basis of human embryonic development. His research focuses on the role of genes in regulating the formation of human tissues, especially as it relates to mental retardation, Down’s syndrome and other congenital birth defects.

In 1998 while at Johns Hopkins University, Gearhart led one of the two research teams that first identified and isolated human pluripotent stem cells. Pluripotent cells have the capacity to form all cell types and tissues present in the human body and are considered a major starting point for the development of a variety of cell-based therapies in the new field of regenerative medicine.

The research Gearhart pioneered could lead to new treatment for heart ailments, diabetes, cancer, and Huntington's and Parkinson's diseases.

Gearhart was a founding member of the International Society for Stem Cell Research, serves on a number of advisory boards and committees involved in stem-cell research and ethics, and has been active in education, outreach and public-policy issues related to stem-cell science.

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Last Updated October 19, 2009