Developmental cell biologist, Professor Ruth Lehmann, has won the 2021 Vilcek Prize in Biomedical Science. She receives the prize for revealing the formation of germ cells—the cells that become egg and sperm cells.
When an embryo is formed, germ cells are set aside before ultimately migrating to the gonads, i.e. the testes or the ovaries, of the organism and becoming new reproductive cells. This happens over and over with each generation. The goal of Professor Lehmann’s research is to completely dissect and understand the life cycle of germ cells in Drosophila fruit flies. Her research has uncovered critical information about the role of RNA and mitochondria in guiding and protecting the cells that ensures that reproductive abilities can be maintained and passed on.