Honorary doctorate from Leiden University for stem cell biologist Melissa Little

8 February 2019• PRESSRELEASE

On Friday 8 February 2019, the Australian stem cell biologist Melissa Little was awarded an honorary doctorate on the occasion of the Leiden University Foundation Day. She received the recognition for her pioneering work relating to regenerative therapy for kidney disease.

LUMC professor Ton Rabelink, who is head of the Nephrology division, was the honorary doctoral supervisor of Prof. Little. “She has immense knowledge of the embryonic development of the kidneys. In 2015, she was the first to discover how you can create kidney cells in the laboratory from induced pluripotent stem cells. That was a scientific breakthrough than can change the prospects for patients. Her basic scientific research, combined with our clinical knowledge, opens up a future in which chronic kidney diseases can be treated using regenerative medicine.”

Bioengineered kidney

Little is a familiar face at the Leiden University Medical Centre (LUMC). In 2015, she occupied the Boerhaave Chair. She is currently exploring possibilities to create new kidneys from stem cells. She is focusing on generating mini-kidneys from patient stem cells for use in drug screening and disease modelling. For this purpose, she collaborates with researchers at the LUMC, who are also working to create a bioengineered kidney as a replacement for kidney transplants. This regenerative medicine is one of the main aims of the LUMC and the focus of the public-private partnership RegMed XB.

Little works at the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, an Australian institute for paediatric medical research, located in Melbourne. She is Theme Director of Cell Biology and heads the Kidney Research laboratory. In the Netherlands, she is working with colleagues including Prof. Rabelink on a kidney foundation project to restore damaged donor kidneys using mesenchymal stem cells. 

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