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Stem Cells and Cloning: Advances and Applications

ISSN: 1178-6957

Interview: Dr Binetruy

We have interviewed the Editor-in-Chief, Dr Bernard Binetruy, who is Research Director at Inserm (the French government agency dedicated to medical research). His main research interest is on the differentiation of ES cells.

Dr Binetruy has also been the Director of the Institut de Physiopathologie Humaine de Marseille, IFR 125, since January 2008. This is a French federal research institute dedicated to basic and clinical multidisciplinary research.

He graduated with a Masters in biochemistry and physiology, then went on to receive his Doctorate in microbiology at the University of Nice, in France. He was also a post-doc fellow in the Department of Pharmacology, School of Medicine, UCSD in the USA. When back in France he started his own lab in the Cancer Research Institute, Paris. It was here that his team developed a differential screening of a cDNA library to identify and then characterize c-Jun target genes.

Q: Where/when did you study for your degree and what were your main research interests?
Dr Binetruy: I graduated from the University of Nice, in the south of France, in the eighties. At that time, molecular biology was in its infancy, the first experiment I did in the lab was to prepare plasmid DNA and cut it with restriction enzymes. Our research focused on the molecular biology of DNA tumor viruses in rodent cells.

Q: How do you think today's students are served by the education system and educators?
Dr Binetruy: In France, I think that the education system is good. The main problem is after a PhD it is now much more difficult for young people to get stable positions than what I experienced. This is probably a symptom of economical and political problems.

Q: What are your main research interests now?
Dr Binetruy: My major interests are currently in the field of embryonic stem cells and iPS cells and their use in regenerative medicine. In the last few years, research in this field has literally exploded.

Q: How do you think specialists in the field can make their work more understandable by patients? Should academic/scholarly papers all carry a "plain text explanation" of main findings/conclusions?
Dr Binetruy: Regenerative medicine is relatively easy to explain, the goal is to obtain healthy cells to replace damaged tissues. I think it is probably less complex to explain than other fields, such as cancer for example.

Q: Who, in your opinion, is doing the most interesting/exciting work in your field of science/medicine at the moment?
Dr Binetruy: Laboratories working on iPS (ES-like cells obtained from adult somatic cells by genetic reprogramming) are certainly the leaders in our field. The discovery of the reprogramming of adult cells lead to the possibility for each individual to isolate ES-like cells, the perfect potential source for compatible cell replacement therapies. Just to cite one lab: Yamanaka's lab, Kyoto University, Kyoto, Japan.

Q: Who has had the biggest influence on your career as a scientist/clinician etc? What has she/he done that has been so influential on you?
Dr Binetruy: Two people were very important. The first was Dr Cuzin, my mentor at the University of Nice. He was one my professors during my studies, and the boss of my first lab. He taught me the concepts of cellular and molecular biology. The second one was Dr Karin, UCSD San Diego, where I did my post-doctoral studies. He "broke" some mental "scientific barriers" I had.

Q: What has been the most far-reaching change that you have experienced during your career as a scientist/clinician?
Dr Binetruy: Because these cells are capable of making every type of cell, even in vitro, the experience of working on ES cells is certainly the most exciting I have had.

Q: As you look over your area of science/medicine what are the changes that you might expect to see in the next 5-10 years?
Dr Binetruy: The use of iPS cells in cellular therapies.

Q: Which topics in your area of medicine/science do you think are over-researched?
Dr Binetruy: None! There is no limit to science, as long as it serves humanity.

Q: Which area of science/medicine would you most like to know about?
Dr Binetruy: Human molecular genetic science is probably just at the dawn of understanding.

Q: If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?
Dr Binetruy: To be more flexible in my research strategies! May be I'm a bit too much obstinate.

Q: Do you have any unfulfilled ambitions that you would like to try to address in the future?
Dr Binetruy: Acknowledgement by peers is a persistent ambition, always renewed.

Q: What do you consider your greatest achievement in your professional life?
Dr Binetruy: Publishing a full paper in Nature.

Q: What is your most marked characteristic?
Dr Binetruy: I don't know, maybe scientific curiosity.

Q: What is it that you most dislike in your area of medicine/science?
Dr Binetruy: Nothing comes to mind! Yes, of course, we are all reminded about the sad story of the South Korean's lab that faked the results and claimed to have cloned human ES cell lines by nuclear transplantation. Whatever the pressure, this is unforgivable.

Q: Which topics in your area of medicine/science do you think are under-researched?
Dr Binetruy: In the field of ES research, the legal restraints are being broken all over the world, and notably since Barack Obama's election to the U.S. Presidency, this for sure will greatly help ES research.

Dr Binetruy was interviewed by Peter Fogarty at Dove Medical Press. We have setup interviews with some of our other Editors-in-Chief, so keep a look out for these, they should provide some compelling reading.  

If there is someone in a specialist field you would like to read an interview about, let us know and we will do our best to arrange it.