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Nicholas Wright

Nicholas WrightWarden of Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, and group leader at the London Research Institute, running the histopathology laboratory

Interview location:  The London Hospital
Interview date
:  8th October 2007

Key Themes: Alder Hey, History of Pathology, International Perspective, Legislation and Regulation


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  I think there should be room in the profession for people like me, who are not interested in people as suffering patients, but in the disease processes that they suffer from -- as an intellectual exercise basically.  Because from that will come eventually an understanding of how these things can be prevented Nicholas Wright is unusual in that he knew even before he went to medical school that he wanted to be a pathologist.  He traces his career choice to a book he read as a teenager – Men Against Death, by Paul de Kruif – about the early bacteriologists. “That golden era of bacteriology from 1880 till 1920, when most of the bacteria that cause diseases were discovered, was extremely interesting. It's a real saga. I think any young person... would be turned on by it.”

Wright realised he was more interested in the effect the bacteria were having on the tissues than in the bacteria themselves, so he chose to specialise in histopathology.  Besides running a department and nurturing new generations of pathologists, his passion since the early’ 80s has been for stem cell research: “I was really interested in how tissues were put together and how they responded to insult and did repair... That led naturally to stem cells.”

Wright and his group are at the cutting edge: they were the first to discover adult stem cells in the bone marrow of humans that can transform themselves into a wide range of tissues when the body needs them for repair.  Until then, most scientists believed embryonic stem cells alone possessed such ‘plasticity’, and that adult stem cells were specific to each tissue type.  That discovery unleashed “an avalanche of thought” because of its potential to provide novel treatments for disease.  

Besides research, Wright is a committed teacher.  From the beginning his goal was to create a centre of excellence: “My ambition [was] to build a sort of family, or school of pathology.”


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