University of Missouri - Columbia.
Back to Story Archive
Posted 12.07.05

Roberts Among World's Top 50 Scientists, Says Scientific American Magazine

COLUMBIA, Mo. -- A prestigious list of 50 of the world's top research, business and policy leaders includes R. Michael Roberts, University of Missouri-Columbia Curators' Professor of animal science and biochemistry. Roberts is on the prestigious list for his work with stem cells.

Michael Roberts."The inclusion was a complete surprise," Roberts said. "I thought that there must have been some ghastly misunderstanding when a reader of Scientific American congratulated me. Nevertheless, it is gratifying to be on the list."

Related Links

Scientific American

Roberts work deals with human embryonic stem cells that refuse to remain in a uniform state when cultured under standard conditions and progress spontaneously into a non-stem cell, differentiated state. This makes the cells less useless to scientists who are trying to direct their differentiation (using hormones, growth factors and other stimuli) to particular cell types, such as nerves or tissue, which might be used therapeutically.

"As an embryologist, I knew that early cow and mouse embryos do not do well at the 20 percent oxygen concentrations found in air and that are normally used to grow cells in the laboratory," Roberts said. "Instead, embryos thrive best when oxygen concentrations are low. I inferred that human embryonic stem cells might be more easily maintained if we changed the gas atmosphere to less than 5 percent oxygen. That proved to be correct, as demonstrated by Dr. Toshi Ezashi, who carried out all the experiments."

"The Scientific American 50 is our annual opportunity to salute the people and organizations worldwide whose research, policy or business leadership has played a major role in bringing about the science and technology innovations that are improving the way we live and offer the greatest hope for the future," said John Rennie, the magazine's editor-in-chief.

The people included on the list are selected by the Scientific American Board of Editors with the help of distinguished outside advisors. Founded in 1845, editorial contributors to the magazine have included more than 100 Nobel laureates, among them Albert Einstein.

The list appears in the magazine's December issue which is currently on newsstands. The complete list also may be accessed on the magazine's Web site at



MU News Bureau: