Palestinian Jacob Hanna left home to study in Jerusalem. After earning his degree, he the proceeded to MIT to research stem cell manipulation where he got job offers from Harvard and NYU. Jacob, then 31, decided to instead return home to Israel where he opens his own lab at Weizmann Institute of Science.
How did you cure mice with sickle-cell anemia?
By creating cells that can develop into any body tissue called induced pluripotent stem cells from the skin cells of the mice, we repaired the sickle-cell anomaly and re-introduced them back to the mice. And since they have the same genes, the body wouldn’t reject the cells.
How can this work be applied to humans?
Lab grown stem cells of humans that we made have already differentiated.
Is conducting your research hard, knowing that what you are working on – stem cells – is in the spotlight?
Some researchers, sad to say, have claimed outrageous results just because they crave the attention of the media; work of theirs that I tried to continue.
What was studying like back in Israel?
There is discrimination between Israeli and Palestinians. As a part of the minority, I had to work twice the effort just to get educated and be able to work.
If that’s the case, why start your laboratory back in Israel?
I would like to use this opportunity to promote the academics of the Palestinians. Also, perhaps the only environment without discrimination is in the academia, and one great multidisciplinary institute is Weizmann.