Freda Miller

Molecular Biology

Discovered that stem cells could be harvested from human adult skin and that they could be used to grow nerve cells that could potentially help people with spinal cord injuries or Parkinson's disease.

"Follow your muse. Find out what you love, and don't be afraid to pursue it, even if it's unorthodox -- don't be afraid to pursue your dreams."

Miller wanted to know why a cut finger can mend and feel again, but a damaged brain or spinal cord cannot. Working with colleague Jean Toma, Miller started searching for an answer by looking at the stem cells in skin--the cells that are able to grow and change into different kinds of cells as needed. Miller is now trying to figure out if you can use stem cells from skin to grow new nerve cells in the brain or spinal cord. Her research is also significant because it shows that something as simple and available as skin can provide stem cells thereby avoiding using stem cells from human embryos, which is ethically questioned by some. Miller found that stem cells can be extracted from the deepest layers of the skin of mice, and if they can become muscle, fat, or nerve cells it could lead to revolutionary new medical therapies.

The Science