Amplify: 1 - 9 June 2017


Ismael Aguirre-Maclennan

"See No Devil, Hear No Devil: Saving the Tasmanian Devil with Stem Cells'

Research Summary:

Unless Tassie devils find a way to become immune to the Devil Facial Tumour threatening their extinction, this species will be wiped out. Ismael's research addresses this issue by proving he can make induced, pluripotent stem cells (a cell taken from any tissue - usually skin or blood - then genetically modified to behave like an embryonic stem cell) from both male and female healthy devils that can be modified in the lab to equip other devils to be resistant to this disease. Pluripotent stem cells of infected devils can be compared with non-infected ones and also help identify the differences that drive susceptibility to this cancer. DNA from pluripotent stem cells can also be frozen and preserved permanently, meaning they can be used for making Tassie devil sperm and eggs, helping to bring devils back from extinction. In the long term, pluripotent stem cells from the Tassie Devil can also become a powerful tool to study cancer transmission and treatment for humans.


Ismael's scientific career got a huge boost when he moved out of his comfort zone in Peru to Australia ten years ago, following a vision and determination that someday, he would become a great scientist. Ismael graduated as a cell biologist from the National University of San Marcos (Lima-Peru), before completing two Masters degrees at Australia's Monash and La Trobe Universities in Clinical Embryology and Biotechnology respectively.

Despite work/study commitments, Ismael keeps a balanced lifestyle, and enjoys going to the gym, futsal, playing guitar in a rock/metal band and posting YouTube videos of his classical guitar playing.  An avid learner of languages, Ismael speaks fluent Spanish, has a good command of English as well as French, and is currently studying Mandarin.