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James Alexander Thomson (born December 20, 1958) is an Americanmarker developmental biologist who is best known for deriving the first human embryonic stem cell line. He serves as director of regenerative biology at the Morgridge Institute for Research in Madison, Wisconsin, and is a professor at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. In 2007, he became an adjunct professor in the Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology (MCDB) Department at the University of California, Santa Barbaramarker. He is a member of the National Academy of Sciencesmarker. In 2008, TIME magazine, named him one of 100 of the most influential people in the world.


Thomson graduated Phi Beta Kappa with a B.S. in biophysics from the University of Illinoismarker in 1981. He entered the Veterinary Medical Scientist Training Program at the University of Pennsylvaniamarker, receiving his doctorate in veterinary medicine in 1985, and his doctorate in molecular biology in 1988. His doctoral thesis involved understanding genetic imprinting in early mammalian development.

Thomson joined the University of Wisconsin–Madisonmarker after spending two years as a postdoctoral research fellow in the Primate In Vitro Fertilization and Experimental Embryology Laboratory at the Oregon National Primate Research Centermarker.

Current employment

He is the director of regenerative biology at the Morgridge Institute for Research in Madison, Wisconsin. In addition to being a professor at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, he is also a member of the Genome Center of Wisconsin.

Thomson's research

Since joining the Wisconsin National Primate Research Center, Thomson has conducted pioneering work in the isolation and culture of non-human primate and human embryonic stem cells, undifferentiated cells that have the ability to become any of the cells that make up the tissues of the body. Thomson directed the group that reported the first isolation of embryonic stem cell lines from a non-human primate in 1995, work that led his group to the first successful isolation of human embryonic stem cell lines in 1998. On November 6, 1998, Science published the results of this research in an article titled Embryonic Stem Cell Lines Derived from Human Blastocysts.

On November 22, 2007, the New York Times reported that Thomson's laboratory had devised a method for modifying human skin cells in such a way that they appear to be embryonic stem cells without using a human embryo. This work was published in the journal Science in late 2007.


  1. "UCSB Snags 'Father of Stem-Cell Research' Jamie Thomson Setting Up Shop in SB", Santa Barbara Independent, April 20, 2007.
  2. "The World's Most Influential People," Time Magazine, May 12, 2008.
  3. "Embryonic Stem Cell Lines Derived from Human Blastocysts", Science, November 6, 1998.
  4. "Man Who Helped Start Stem Cell War May End It", New York Times, November 22, 2007.
  5. "Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell Lines Derived from Human Somatic Cells, Yu, J. et al., Science 2007, 318, 1917-1920.

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