Dr Pengyi Yang wins National Stem Cell Foundation Metcalf Prize – News – The University of Sydney

By daniellenierenberg

Dr Pengyi Yang uses computational expertise to build virtual cells.

DrPengyiYanghasreceived one of two annual $55,000 Metcalf Prizes from the National Stem Cell Foundation of Australia inrecognition of his leadership in the field.

DrYangholds a joint position with the University of SydneySchool of Mathematics & Statistics, theCharles Perkins Centreand theChildren's MedicalResearch Institute. His work aims toremove much of the guesswork from stemcell science and eventually stemcell medicine.

Todays stem cell treatmentshave beenthe product of trial anderror, DrYang said.

My virtual stem cell will allow us to understand whats happening inside a single stem cell that makes it decide what type of cell it will becomesuch as, but not limited to,hair, skin, muscle, nerveorbloodcells.

He is mapping the many, complex influencescontrollingstem cells andthe waythey specialise into different cell types.

Stem cells are amazing because they can produce any kind of cell in the body. Theyre fundamental toregenerative medicine,DrYang said.

But, when theircontrols fail,rogue stem cells can lead to cancer.

Allhumanlifestartsas a single stem cell. It goes on to produce cells that eventually become every type of tissue and organ of the human body. Even in adulthood, stem cellsrepairandreplacetissue all the time.

People are excited about the potential of stem cell medicine, but thereality is extremely complicated. Thousands of genes, complex gene networks, environmental factors, and an individuals own health are all involved in pushing stem cells to become specific cell types,DrYang said.

DrYang, a computerscientist turned stem cell researcher, uses computational science and statistics to understand how stem cells function at a fundamental level work that will be useful forthe entire stem cell field ofresearch.

We need a computermodel to bring all of these influences togetherso we can identify the specific gene networks that drive the stem cells towards each cell type,he said.

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Dr Pengyi Yang wins National Stem Cell Foundation Metcalf Prize - News - The University of Sydney

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