Vacanti’s father was a professor of dentistry, and his brothers Jay, Martin, and Frank are also physicians.
Chuck, as Vacanti is known, approaches his work with the trouble-shooter’s willingness to take a flyer.
It is a ruthlessly competitive field, susceptible to fantasy and correspondingly sensitive to bunglers.
Human embryonic stem cells were first cultured in 1998; nearly twenty years later, basic assumptions about cell behavior are still routinely overturned.
Sasai was known as “the brainmaker.” One of Japan’s foremost developmental biologists, he made discoveries that illuminated the formation of the embryonic nervous system, and, using stem cells, he grew the optic cup, parts of the cerebral cortex, and the rudiments of a cerebellum.
Calm and precise in the lab, Sasai was cultivated and erudite outside it, with a reputation as a gracious host who escorted visiting colleagues to spas and prepared sushi for lab parties. B., based in Kobe, was staffed with ambitious scientists who, freed from teaching obligations and equipped with sophisticated laboratories, were expected to make significant discoveries, and publish them illustriously.In the mid-nineties, he released a picture of a mouse with what appeared to be a human ear growing from its back.“Earmouse”—made by inserting an ear-shaped scaffold seeded with cow cells under the skin of a live mouse—became a sensational meme at the dawn of Internet Bizarre.“A brilliant new star has emerged in the science world,” an editorial in the read.“This is a major discovery that could rewrite science textbooks.” As an outsider—young, female, and not an established stem-cell biologist—Obokata, the newspapers argued, was unhindered by conventional notions of what cells can and cannot do.The findings were exhilarating, suggesting an innate regenerative mechanism in the body.Austin Smith, a stem-cell scientist at the University of Cambridge, wrote a companion piece, touting the cells’ “unusually broad developmental potency.” Here, theoretically, was a never-ending supply of super-versatile custom stem cells, free of ethical baggage.Soon afterward, she published a memoir in Japan, strenuously arguing that she had been misunderstood.“I feel a strong sense of responsibility for the originated in Boston about fifteen years ago, in the lab of Charles Vacanti, who recently retired as the chairman of the anesthesiology department at Brigham and Women’s Hospital.Andrew Mc Mahon, a top researcher at the Broad Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research, at the University of Southern California, told me, “It’s not unusual to see something and not be able to explain it.” In reporting results, researchers must often craft a narrative to make sense of mysterious phenomena.What to ignore and what to privilege—that discernment can be the difference between brilliance and quackery, and between fame and obscurity. Distracted in the lab, he seemed frail and diminished, and was being treated by a psychiatrist. In an obituary, Edward De Robertis, who had been Sasai’s mentor at the University of California, Los Angeles, wrote, “Yoshiki was a man of rectitude and a scientist of high personal integrity.” De Robertis did not refer to : the name was by then unmentionable.