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Dr. Leonard Zon Delivers E. Donnall Thomas Lecture at Hematology Meeting

Dr. Leonard Zon, Director of the Stem Cell Program, delivered the E. Donnall Thomas Lecture at the 52nd American Society of Hematology (ASH) Annual Meeting, which was held in Orlando, Florida from December 4th to December 7th, 2010. Dr. Zon’s lecture was titled “Blood Stem Cell Self-Renewal and Differentiation – Lessons From Embryonic Development.” The yearly E. Donnall Thomas Lecture, which was named after a Nobel Prize laureate and past president of the ASH, “recognizes pioneering research achievements in hematology,” according to the ASH website. Dr. Zon was given the 2010 prize in recognition of his work with hematopoietic stem cells.

“E. Donnall Thomas has been one of my heroes my entire academic life,” said Dr. Zon. “The way he discovered bone marrow transplantation was to work on dogs as an animal model, perfecting the technique in dogs and then doing it in humans. In many ways I feel that my work in zebrafish as a model system will hopefully extend to humans, and I really appreciate the way he paved the course for how model systems can be used.”

Back in 1995, when Dr. Zon first started thinking about doing marrow transplants in zebrafish, he wrote to Dr. Thomas for advice. Dr. Zon had been thinking of putting his entire lab on the project. Dr. Thomas responded that he had actually attempted a marrow transplant in zebrafish in 1957, thinking it was a good project for a couple of high school students for a science fair, but stopped the project after trying with some zebrafish and realizing it was going to be too difficult.

“If you look at the winners of the E. Donnall Thomas prize, it’s really the leadership of hematology,” said Dr. Zon. “It’s surprising and also wonderful for me to be included among that list, and so I feel very fortunate to have had a good career with a number of people working hard in the lab and having made some contributions that would put me in the same company as those people.”

To learn more about Dr. Zon’s background and influences, read this article on the ASH website, which also has a detailed account of Dr. Zon’s lecture.

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