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Ian Chambers wins 2020 Hooke Medal

Professor Ian Chambers, Group Leader and Professor of Pluripotent Stem Cell Biology at the MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine, has won the 2020 Hooke Medal for his contribution to UK Cell Biology.

The Hooke Medal is awarded every year by the British Society for Cell Biology (BSCB) and recognises an emerging leader in cell biology. 

The award was first made in 2000 and is named after Robert Hooke, the eminent 17th century natural philosopher and author of Micrographia. 

The medal is presented to an individual who has started their own group within the last 14 years and who has made an outstanding contribution to cell biology in the UK or Ireland. 

Stem Cells

Professor Chambers started his own group at the University of Edinburgh in 2006. His lab studies how transcription factors (TFs) control pluripotent stem cell identity and how this changes as cells differentiate, particularly into the germline - embryonic precursors to egg and sperm cells. 

He is also the co-discoverer of NANOG, a transcription factor (TF) that can allow Embryonic Stem Cells (ESCs) to self-renew in the absence of the otherwise essential LIF signal. He named NANOG after Tir nan Og, the Celtic Land-of-the-Ever-Young. 

This was one of three examples of UK-based advances cited in the Report & Recommendations of the UK Stem Cell Initiative, alongside the establishment of Embryonic Stem Cells (ESCs) and the creation of Dolly the Sheep.

Regulation

Professor Chambers was the first to show that ESCs can change their expression of transcription factors. For example while ESCs with low NANOG are primed to differentiate, they can return to a high NANOG, differentiation-resistant state. 

His lab also identified Otx2 as a key regulator of germline/soma (cells of the body) segregation. Without an Otx2 gene, pluripotent stem cells can differentiate into the germline as a default mechanism.

The medal will be presented to Professor Chambers at the British Society for Cell Biology annual meeting in September.

I am very honoured to be awarded the Hooke Medal in recognition of our work on the control of pluripotent cell function by transcription factors. Experimental science is a team effort and I would like to thank all my colleagues, especially the many members of my lab past and present, who made this award possible.

Professor Ian Chambers