Medical Research Council - London Institute of Medical Sciences

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Born on this Day – in 1879 Realising Potential

Vera Danchakoff one of the very first to recognise the role of and use the term 'stem cells'

21 March 2020

Realising Potential

Most things in nature follow a predefined pattern of growth. One type of seed will always develop into a particular plant. But there’s a fundamental case of almost limitless potential in biology: stem cells. These are starter cells, a set of universal ingredients capable of being cooked up into almost any other type of cell. Stem cells are essential to life, and have become valuable tools in the treatment of a wide range of diseases. Vera Danchakoff – born on this day in 1879 – was one of the first to realise that a single type of cell could expand into a wide range, and use the term ‘stem cell’. Resisting her parents’ instructions to follow an arts education, she became the first female professor in Russia and first woman awarded a doctorate in medical sciences from the St Petersburg Academy of Medicine: unlimited potential realised.

Written by Anthony Lewis

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