Dr. Ann Tsukamoto Featured Image - Carlson Caspers


Dr. Ann Tsukamoto identified and patented a process that allowed the human stem cell to be isolated.

This Women’s History Month, we celebrate Dr. Ann Tsukamoto, a stem cell researcher who identified and patented a process that allowed the human stem cell to be isolated.  Dr. Tsukamoto’s contributions in stem cell research have revolutionized approaches to cancer treatment and the medical field at large.

Dr. Tsukamoto was born in 1952 in California, where she attended undergrad at University of California, San Diego, and earned her Ph.D. in immunology and microbiology at UCLA.  Dr. Tsukamoto did her postdoctoral work at University of California, San Francisco, where she developed a transgenic model for breast cancer and worked on the wnt-1 gene.  The wnt-1 gene was later discovered to be a vital link in the stem cell self-renewal pathway.

Dr. Tsukamoto’s research and study of stem cells was driven by the motivation to identify a potential cure for cancer.  In 1991, during her time at the first stem cell company, SyStemix, Inc., Dr. Tsukamoto patented a method of isolating blood-forming stem cells.  The patent, entitled “Human Hematopoietic Stem Cell,” reflects her discovery of a method of isolating a homogenous composition of human hematopoietic stem cells (hHSC).  Hematopoietic stem cells can mature into all types of blood cells (white, red, or platelets) and can be used to replace cells that have been damaged by cancers and other diseases.  Her underlying research that led to this groundbreaking method focused on understanding the circulatory systems of cancer patients.  She and her colleagues went on to obtain seven U.S. patents relating to stem cell research.

In 1998, Dr. Tsukamoto continued her research work at StemCells Incorporated where she served as executive vice president for Scientific and Strategic Alliances.  There, she directed a team of scientists that discovered the human central nervous system stem cell (HuCNS-SC®) and focused her work on the isolation of liver and neural stem cells and their role in various diseases.

Dr. Tsukamoto has pioneered a field of research in better understanding stem cells and how they can be used to treat cancer and other fatal diseases.  She continues to publish her research relating to human central nervous system stem cells and their application in treating disease.  Prior to Dr. Tsukamoto’s research in the stem cell field, there was considered to be no cure for cancer and other similar illnesses.  Her work has undoubtedly saved countless lives, and the impact of her discoveries will aid researchers in the medical field for years to come.

Author: Caroline Marsili