Driven by religion and heartache, one woman’s mission to find a cure for diabetes leads to her creation of the first non-embryonic human stem cell. Following her daughter’s death from diabetes, Dr. Elena Revazova was determined to find a cure. She moved to the United States from her native Russia where she worked as a leading cell biologist. Unable to find a job in research, Revazova settled for working as a volunteer research scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles. “She wanted to use stem cell technology to develop treatments, but she was also a very religious individual. She felt very strongly about not wanting to cross the ethical boundary of using embryonic stem cells,” says Craw.
In time, Revazova discovered a way to create stem cells lines without fertilizing the human egg through a process called parthenogenesis. “Elena found she could develop eggs up to about five days,” says Craw. “They wouldn’t develop any further because they come from unfertilized eggs so there’s no male genome. But you can get to a stage where they have stem cells.”
This powerful new stem cell technology can significantly advance the field of regenerative medicine by addressing the problem of immune rejection. A relatively small number of parthenogenetic stem cell lines could provide immune-matched cells for a large percentage of the world’s population. She published her discovery in the Cloning and Stem Cells journal in 2007 and then founded ISCO where they’ve been building on the foundation of her discovery ever since.