Published September 1, 2006
Kevin Eggan is a developmental biologist at the forefront of addressing fundamental questions about cellular differentiation and plasticity; in addition to their importance to basic biology, these questions hold essential implications for developing therapeutic stem cell lines from adult cell nuclei. His research explores the mechanisms by which somatic cell nuclear transfer (cloning) can reverse the differentiation of a cell by “reprogramming” its nucleus to the totipotent state. His accomplishments place him at the forefront of a most exciting new branch of biology: the use of nuclear transfer and stem cell technologies to explore mammalian development, i.e., how a single cell grows into a complex organism. In an important study of X chromosome inactivation in cloned mouse embryos, Eggan demonstrated that the nuclear transfer procedure leads to epigenetic reprogramming of the donor genome. More recently, he showed that nuclei of even highly specialized cells, such as olfactory neurons which express only a single odorant receptor, retain full developmental potential. After careful review by independent human subjects and ethics panels, Eggan received permission in June 2006 to initiate efforts at Harvard to create embryonic stem cell lines from skin cells of patients suffering from several debilitating or terminal diseases. By exploring the possibilities of redirecting stem cells from adult tissue or differentiated tissue, Eggan is moving us an important step closer to developing therapeutic applications for diseases such as Parkinson’s and insulin-dependent diabetes, as well as providing an experimental platform for investigating the genetic and environmental factors that give rise to such diseases.
Kevin Eggan received a B.S. (1996) in microbiology from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and a Ph.D. (2003) in biology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research (2002-2003) and a Junior Fellow in the Harvard Society of Fellows beginning 2003, prior to joining Harvard University’s Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology as an assistant professor in 2005. In 2006, he was also named an assistant investigator of the Stowers Medical Institute.
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