STANFORD-- CALIF—Irving Weissman is a risk taker. He doesn’t mind losing bets: A bottle of wine here, a beer there. It’s a small price to pay for the progress of science.

The last bet the Stanford University immunologist lost was with postdoc Mike McCune over whether a complete human immune system could be transplanted into a mouse. “I said, ‘Great idea, fantastic, but I’ll bet it doesn’t work,’ “ Weissman recalls. “Well, I was wrong and he was right.”

It’s been a good year for the Weissman lab. The September 23 publication in Science (page 1632) of their paper describing mice with a human immune system—the first true animal model for studying AIDS—came on the heels of another long-sought breakthrough: the isolation from mice of stem cells, the precursors that give rise to the entire immune system. If the isolation procedure can be repeated in humans, it could revolutionize bone...

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