Five Stem Cell Projects Funded by NYSTEM

Five projects led by researchers at the Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons have been funded by the New York State Stem Cell Science program (NYSTEM) through Investigator Initiated Research Projects and Innovative, Developmental or Exploratory Activities in Stem Cell Research grants. NYSTEM is a $600 million program launched in 2007 to support stem cell research across New York state.

Dieter Egli, PhD, assistant professor of developmental cell biology (in pediatrics and obstetrics & gynecology) and Columbia Stem Cell Initiative (CSCI) member, is leading a two-year project deriving haploid human pluripotent stem cells from a single sperm. His work is aimed at understanding the functional significance of human genetic variation in health and disease.

Gordana Vunjak-Novakovic, PhD, University Professor, the Mikati Foundation Professor of Biomedical Engineering, professor of medical sciences, and a founding member of the CSCI, is leading a three-year project to study emergent cardiac behaviors by implementation of optical control of human cardiac tissues grown from optogenetic lines of cardiomyocytes from healthy individuals and patients with heart conditions causing arrhythmia. Her studies have implications for the management of arrhythmias in the human heart.

Hynek Wichterle, PhD, associate professor of pathology & cell biology, rehabilitation & regenerative medicine, and neuroscience (in neurology)  and CSCI member, and Kevin Kanning, PhD, assistant professor of pathology & cell biology at CUIMC, are leading a two-year project investigating transcriptional and chromatin regulators of motor neuron differentiation from embryonic stem cells. The team is developing a CRISPR-based screening platform that will enable powerful genetic access to motor neuron biology, identify novel modifiers of motor neuron specification, and provide an adaptable roadmap and tool set for the study of embryonic stem cell differentiation into other cell types. 

David Owens, PhD, associate professor of epithelial cell biology (in dermatology, pathology & cell biology, and dental medicine), is leading a three-year project investigating the cellular and molecular regulation of age-related loss of tactile acuity. His work could unlock how skin stem cells maintain a differentiated lineage of sensory cells that perceive light touch responses and how this process is perturbed with aging. 

Stephen Tsang, MD, PhD, the Laszlo T. Bito Associate Professor of Ophthalmology, associate professor of pathology & cell biology, and CSCI member, is leading a three-year project investigating treatments for juvenile macular degeneration at the Jonas Children’s Vision Care, New York-Presbyterian Hospital. His study could provide new innovative treatments for devastating ocular diseases affecting children.