Contributing to the development of an instrument essential to the field of regenerative medicine
An immunologist/geneticist who made it possible to sort viable cells by their specific properties.
Dr. Leonard Arthur Herzenberg became the first in the world to sort viable cells, and made pioneering contributions towards the development of an instrument that performs this task reliably and effectively. This instrument has played a crucial role in the progress and development of regenerative medicine, now a subject of international attention, and is being used extensively to investigate the pathological condition of HIV carriers and leukemia patients.
Recent years have seen striking advances in medical science which are expected to fundamentally transform many common medical treatments. One of the areas that benefits from this progress most significantly is regenerative medicine, a field whose advancing research and clinical applications are drawing much public attention due to their extraordinary potential. Regenerative medicine is a medical treatment technique that "regenerates" cells, tissues, organs, or their functions by transplanting undifferentiated cells into patients. It was Dr. Herzenberg who made pioneering contributions to the development of the flow cytometer, an indispensable instrument for regenerative medicine that sorts viable stem cells by their properties.
A talented immunologist and geneticist, Dr. Herzenberg began researching lymphocytes in the late 1950s. He came into the spotlight when he combined a fluorescence detector with an instrument that separates cells according to their size, originally developed at Los Alamos National Laboratory in 1965. In so doing, he became the first in the world to demonstrate that fluorescence-labeled viable cells can be sorted via fluorescence intensity. After a series of modifications, in the early 1970s he successfully built a mass-producible flow cytometer called the Fluorescence- Activated Cell Sorter (FACS) with the cooperation of Becton Dickinson and Company, which has subsequently been distributed worldwide.
His innovative technology has also been applied to stem cell research, which is expected to offer great value in regenerative medicine and leukemia treatment. The flow cytometer made it possible to sort stem cells, which can be found in ordinary somatic cells, as well as umbilical cord blood and bone marrow cells, at a high purity by placing a special fluorescent label on them.
This technique has a broad range of applications. HIV infection, for instance, develops when helper T-cells, a type of lymphocyte, are destroyed. If one places a fluorescent label on the HIV carrier's helper T-cells, and uses a flow cytometer to periodically monitor the levels of these cells, the pathological condition can be investigated accurately. Another example is leukemia. This disease is often accompanied by infections or excessive bleeding when the number of normal hemocytes decreases due to an abnormal proliferation of malignant hematopoietic cells (chiefly leukocytes). The flow cytometer counts various kinds of hematopoietic cells labeled with a special fluorescence in order to identify causative cells, thereby providing useful data for subsequent treatment.
This technique of sorting and counting viable cells for specific purposes offers great potential for even broader applications within the medical field. Hence, it can be said that Dr. Herzenberg's contributions to the life sciences are immeasurable.
For more details, see the Achievements.