Pope appoints U.S. stem-cell biologist to science academy

VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Pope Francis named a pioneering U.S. scientist specializing in stem-cell research to the Pontifical Academy for Sciences.

A photo provided by the Oregon Health & Science University shows a stem cell colony produced from human skin cells. Pope Francis named Elaine Fuchs, professor and head of the laboratory of mammalian cell biology and development at The Rockefeller University in New York, to the Pontifical Academy for Sciences. (CNS photo/Oregon Health & Science University via EPA)

Elaine Fuchs, professor and head of the laboratory of mammalian cell biology and development at The Rockefeller University in New York, was appointed to the papal think tank, according to a Vatican press release published May 5, her birthday.

Fuchs, 68, has done ground-breaking research on the biology of skin stem cells, studying how these cells make and repair tissues, how they “communicate” with other neighboring cells, and how the communication malfunctions in cancer and aging, according to the press release. The research is aimed at developing therapies that enhance wound repair and impact the stem cells of tumors, it said.

Born in Hinsdale, Illinois, she earned a degree in chemistry from the University of Illinois and got her Ph.D. in biochemistry from Princeton University. She was the first woman hired in the biochemistry department at the University of Chicago in 1980.

In addition to working at Rockefeller University, she is also an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute — a philanthropic organization working to advance biomedical research and science education.

She a member of many top science associations, including the National Academy of Medicine, and is the recipient of numerous awards, including the National Medal of Science.

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