One-and-a-half million euros for stem cell research in plants

Published on
August 8, 2011

The European Research Council (ERC) has awarded dr. Dolf Weijers, Associate Professor in the Biochemistry Laboratory at Wageningen University, part of Wageningen UR, a so-called Starting Grant worth 1.5 million euros


He has been awarded the grant for research into the construction of stem cells in plants.

Weijers’ research will explore a number of questions. Which genes need to be turned on and off in order to generate stem cells? How does this gene activity translate into the unique stretching and dividing patterns of stem cells? And how does the communication between the stem cell and the organising cells that obstructs this differentiation in the stem cell work? After all, every division of the stem cell only results in just one stem cell and one body cell.

Dr. Weijers: “Plants generate their entire body after the ´birth´ (if you think of germination of the seed as the birth). Stem cells responsible for generating the body of the plant are constructed in the seed at a very early stage. So it is vital to understand how this mechanism works, but we now know very little.”

Weijers will appoint two post-doc researchers and two PhD students to help with his research.

Competition for ERC Grants is fierce. This year, less than ten percent of the four thousand applications were honoured. A researcher must come up with an original, innovative idea and must have already proved his or her worth. A few years ago, Dolf Weijers received a so-called VIDI grant from the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) for research into the construction of and communication between various cells in the plant embryo. This resulted in a publication in Nature in 2010.