On March 17 the Libraries Speaker Series featured Susan V. Bryant, a leading, international researcher in limb regeneration and the Dean of Biological Sciences at UCI, in a fascinating lecture on “Regeneration, Rejuvenation, Stem Cells.”
Bryant gained an international reputation when she pioneered the development of molecular techniques for studying regeneration. For nearly four decades, she has studied the axolotl salamander, the only lab animal that can regenerate, by analyzing how it perfectly reproduces a missing limb in about four weeks. Bryant's research identifies the molecular patterns that trigger this re-growth of limbs, and by understanding the sequence of events that lead to regeneration, her discoveries may ultimately lead to new approaches and therapies for replacing and repairing lost, damaged, or diseased parts of the human body.
“The salamander makes stem cells to generate a new limb,” Bryant says. “If we could harness that ability, the debate about stem cells would be eliminated. All you would have to do is give a shot of whatever the stimulus agent is, at the site you want to regenerate, and the person’s body would create the stem cells.”
Susan V. Bryant
Bryant’s interest in stem cell research is well known. She was recently appointed to the Independent Citizen's Oversight Committee, established by Proposition 71, to govern the activities of the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine. Proposition 71 authorizes an average of $295 million per year for 10 years to fund stem cell research and facilities in the state. “It is exciting to be in a position to fund research that holds tremendous promise for people with debilitating diseases,” Bryant told the audience. “This initiative is not promising instant cures, but it is promising an instant research focus on the capabilities of stem cells. Treatments for intolerable diseases are closer to reality as more research on stem cells takes place.” Bryant also says that the Institute will have a huge impact on the state, because the number of labs choosing to work on stem cells and the progress of research on stem cells will accelerate due to the availability of funding.
While serving on the commission, Bryant continues in her post as Dean of the School of Biological Sciences, which she began in 2000. Prior to serving as dean, she held several administrative positions at UCI, including Assistant Vice Chancellor for plans and programs and the Chair of the Department of Developmental and Cell Biology at UCI, and she was program director of the National Science Foundation Developmental Biology Review Panel.