Janet Rossant

Cell Biology

A world leader in developmental biology

Dr. Janet Rossant did not have to wait too long to recognize her calling. She won the Gibbs Prize in Zoology for the best overall performance at the undergraduate level. As a graduate student, she succeeded in tracking individual cells in mouse embryos as they adopt distinct characteristics, such as blood, organs or bone.

After arriving in Canada in 1977, she joined Brock University as an Assistant Professor and later the University of Toronto as an Associate Professor. She was appointed University Professor in 2001. Along with her teaching career, Dr. Rossant has been working for the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute, at Toronto’s Mount Sinai Hospital, since 1985.

In addition, Dr. Rossant is an active member of the international developmental biology community. She is a member of many Scientific Advisory Boards, Committees, and societies for medicine and biology.

Sources:

Dr. Rossant’s biography, including the dates of appointments and affiliations.

Professor Janet Rossant, a description of her life-long achievements from the University of Toronto.

Who’s Who in Canadian Women

Image: Canadian Institute of Health Research

The Science

Dr. Janet Rossant’s work has major influences in developmental biology, stem cells, and cell lineage. Her major findings are related to the question of how genetically identical cells adopt distinct characteristics during embryo development. This question is paramount for those who seek understanding of numerous diseases, caused by abnormal development process. This work will influence studies not only of birth defects but even of genetic predisposition to various diseases such as cancer.

Dr. Rossant is internationally recognized for her pioneering research in mouse genetics; she says that the study of mice helps researchers to learn more about human genetics. She genetically manipulates the mouse genome – the total genes carried by a cell – to address problems that may arise during development. Because these mouse cells represent the early cells that form the placenta in humans, it becomes possible to predict what can go wrong in early pregnancy.

Dr. Rossant’s research takes two directions. Firstly, research on stem cells – cells that give rise to a lineage of cells. Secondly, genome-wide functional genomics. At the Centre for Modeling Human Disease, which she directs, Dr. Rossant experiments with genome-wide mutagenesis in mice to produce new mouse models of human disease.

The Person