2014 CIRM Scholars
CIRM Clinical Fellows
Anabel S. de la Garza-Rodea, M.D., Ph.D.
Muscle stem cells (satellite cells) are critical for skeletal muscle regeneration and have been explored as a cell therapy for muscular dystrophies. The Saba lab has shown that the bioactive lipid sphingosine -1-phosphate (S1P) promotes satellite cell proliferation and exerts pro-survival actions. Using in vitro cell cultures and the mdx mouse model, I’m investigating role of S1P in promoting regeneration and stem cell expansion in the dystrophic or injured muscle environment.
James Jacobs MD, MPH
My research is focused on the role of small, non-coding
RNA molecules along with their associated protein partners in hematopoiesis.
Specifically, I'm interested in determining if the role these small RNA molecules
play in the maintenance of germ-line stem cells exists in hematopoietic stem
cells as well.
Xuefeng Qiu, M.D.
I’m interested in the development of tissue engineered vascular grafts that can incorporate into the circulatory system, mimic the vasoreactivity and biomechanics of the native vasculature, and maintain long-term patency. My project is focused on mechanisms of tissue formation in vascular tissue engineering, especially using the self-healing potential of the stem cell pool.
Postdoctoral CIRM Scholars
Badriprasad Ananthanarayanan, PhD
Two significant challenges impede the progression of stem cell-based therapies to the clinic: our limited ability to recapitulate microenvironmental cues from the native stem cell niche that govern many aspects of cell function; and the poor survival and engraftment of cells due to insults suffered during the transplantation process. I am developing a novel modular biomaterials platform based on hyaluronic acid and crosslinked using click chemistry for the study of microenvironmental influences on the differentiation of stem and progenitor cells in vitro, and as a biofunctional scaffold for transplantation of therapeutic cells in vivo.
Maroof Adil, PhD
Clinical trials of cell replacement therapies for Parkinson’s disease are often unpredictable. Ineffective dispersion of implanted cells can lead to incomplete replenishment of denervated areas and regions of heterogeneous dopaminergic activity. I am interested in developing 3D biomaterial scaffolds functionalized with specific neurotrophic and chemotactic molecules that can enhance the survival and post-implantation dispersion of encapsulated stem cell derived dopaminergic neurons. Success in this project will take us a step closer to recreating the natural neural architecture following cell replacement therapy in neurodegenerative conditions and improve treatment of Parkinson’s disease.
Anurag Mathur, PhD
There is an urgent need in pharmaceutical industry to accurately and efficiently assess potential drug compounds for effectiveness and toxicity. With the advent of human induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells, we can create a “patient-specific” physiologically functioning in vitro model of multiple tissues, including those critical for drug screening and toxicity testing. I am developing an integrated cardiac system in vitro, which mimics the structure and function of the human heart. This system can be used for understanding, studying, and developing new drugs and strategies for treating diseases such as cardiac arrhythmias and other cardiomyopathies.
Mustafa Mir, PhD
Our current understanding of neural differentiation is limited by a lack of available technologies to measure non-destructively the differentiation state of individual neural stem cells in a large population as they mature and form a network. Performing such a measurement, without affecting cell viability and multipotency, will enable previously intractable studies to understand how various environmental stimuli affect individual cells during the differentiation and network formation process. I am using a novel label-free quantitative phase imaging technology (QPI) that I developed during my PhD research to develop label-free signatures for neural stem cell differentiation states and address this need. Furthermore, by using microfluidic and substrate patterning technologies to exercise precise control over cellular microenvironment, I will quantify the effects of these factors on the differentiation process.
E. Lorena Mora-Blanco, PhD
Recent work from the LaBarge lab has demonstrated that the aging process in breast is, contrary to expectations, associated with an increase in the size of the multipotent progenitor pool and a decrease in the myoepithelial cell population. I am characterizing the epigenetic changes that occur in key homeostasis regulators in the mammary epithelium, to improve our understanding of changes in regulation as cells chronologically age, and provide insight into the molecular mechanisms responsible for the increase in breast cancer susceptibility with aging.
Rui Song, PhD
The polycistronic miR-290-295 gene encodes seven microRNAs which constitute >70% of total miRNAs expressed in mouse ES cells. My research focuses on functional dissection and biogenesis regulation of the individual miRNAs of the miR-290-295 cluster in ES cells.
Achim Werner, PhD
The Ubiquitin system has long been known as a key regulator of cell division and survival in somatic cells but has only recently emerged as an important player in stem cell pluripotency and differentiation. Yet, the precise molecular mechanisms how ubiquitylation controls these processes are still elusive. My postdoctoral work in the Rape lab focuses on a large family of Cul3-based Ubiquitin E3 ligases and their role in stem cell maintenance and differentiation.
Kereshmeh Taravosh-Lahn, PhD
My research examines how early life environment can affect mental and cognitive health throughout life, via regulation of the adult stem cell niche in the hippocampus. The cell fate potential of neural stem cells is plastic and modulated by stress, which has implications for the structural basis of stress-sensitive pathologies, including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. As such, I'm very interested in how stress during the early stages of development can shift neural stem cell fate, affect white matter and impact behaviors well into adulthood.
Predoctoral CIRM Scholars
Jaclyn Ho, PhD candidate
Human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) provide a remarkable opportunity for regenerative medicine, disease-modeling, and drug discovery. Yet most human iPSCs have been shown to retain epigenetic signatures of their somatic tissue of origin – known as epigenetic memory – resulting in restricted and/or biased differentiation, which hinders their potential use. The goal of my project is to provide novel insight on the advancement of iPSC fidelity and memory erasure mediated by the DNA repair complex, XPC-RAD23B-CETN2. Preliminary findings raise the possibility that this complex may aid in the reprogramming process by coupling efficient DNA demethylation, robust ESC-specific transcription, and genome surveillance.
Angela Kaczmarczyk, PhD Candidate
Germline cells play a unique role in development; these specialized cells form the gametes that allow for reproduction. The crustacean Parhyale hawaiensis displays the remarkable ability to replace its germline cells post-embryonically, resulting in fertile animals and normal offspring. I am investigating the cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in this replacement.
Kuan Lu, PhD Candidate
Magnetic Particle Imaging (MPI) shows enormous promise as an ideal stem cell imaging modality. This new imaging technique is safe and noninvasive, and doesn’t require genetic modification to the stem cells. MPI is not depth-limited, and promises to image the implanted stem cells with extremely high contrast, high sensitivity, and the ability to accurately quantify cell number in vivo. I am working to significantly improve the sensitivity and resolution of MPI technology for stem cell tracking.
Brock Roberts, PhD Candidate
I am differentiating stem cells to investigate the mechanism by which the Sonic Hedgehog (Shh) signaling gradient is established during embryogenesis. I am particularly interested in the Shh transport mechanism. To study this, genes involved in the distribution and response to Shh are mutated in novel combinations within mouse embryonic stem cells. These cells are then differentiated into neuralized embryoid bodies that recapitulate the hedgehog response in vitro. My ability to flexibly inactivate genes and generate genetically chimeric neural tissue allows me to assay for non-autonomous effects on Shh transport in tissue lacking the activity of one or many hedgehog pathway components.
Sean McFarland, PhD candidate
Stem cells have rich potential within the field of regenerative medicine, both in modeling disease phenotype and in developing novel therapeutics. This potential comes at the cost of complexity, however, and such cells integrate many ambient signals to determine behavior. To better explore this diverse parameter space, I am developing a high-throughput platform that will allow for combinatorial interrogation of stem cells in 3D microenvironments.