NYSCF in the News

NYSCF – Robertson Stem Cell Investigator Dr. Kristen Brennand at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai published her latest research using induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells to study psychosis in Stem Cell Reports. When deriving iPS cells from two patients, each with a psychotic disorder, the scientific team serendipitously generated a non-disease-carrier control iPS cell line. This finding highlights a problem scientists face when using iPS cells for disease modeling, particularly in patients with complex genomic rearrangements. 

While iPS cell lines are emerging as a go-to technology to model human disease, this paper provides evidence that scientists should use caution while doing so. Ideally, scientists would confirm that the mutations they are studying are present at every step in the process of creating iPS cell lines; however, this is difficult and sometimes impossible using current techniques. This finding sheds light on an important area of inquiry in stem cell research, and provides an impetus to identify new methos of deriving iPS cell lines with specific genetic mutations.  


Read the paper in Stem Cell Reports >>

Read the press release on EurekAlert >>

It is a well known fact that vision modifies behavior; however, behavior can also modify vision. NYSCF – Robertson Neuroscience Investigator Alumnus Dr. Gaby Maimon and his team at The Rockefeller University explored the biophysical underpinnings of how ongoing behavior modulates vision in fruit flies. Using a complex, multifaceted research approach, the scientists illustrate how the fruit flies’ brains can filter out one sensory signal from many similar signals as demonstrated by a set of head movements during flight turns that require the silencing of their gaze-stability reflexes. This research was published in Cell.
Basic research into the function and mechanisms of how behavior changes brain processing, including vision, has vast and important implications on understanding brain function in all animals and humans. 
A team of researchers at Columbia University Medical Center including NYSCF - Robertson Investigator Dr. Dieter Egli have discovered that a specific enzyme deficiency in the brain is linked to most of the abnormalities in Prader-Willi syndrome, a rare genetic condition that causes extreme hunger and severe obesity beginning in childhood. The researchers used induced pluripotent stem cells, made from skin samples of patients with Prader-Willi, to create the neurons affected and identify the deficient enzyme. The enzyme, prohormone covertase, captures the link between the well known genetic mutation leading to Prader-Willi and the symptoms of the syndrome. 
The discovery, published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, provides insight into the molecular mechanisms underlying the syndrome and highlights a novel target for drug therapy. This research has large implications not only on exciting new treatment targets and approaches for Prader-Willi patients, but also on the treatment and managment of obesity in general.
Susan L. Solomon, NYSCF CEO, and Dr. Michael Yaffe, NYSCF Vice President of Scientific Programs, contributed eleven new definitions and an editorial on the importance of including the patient voice in developing stem cell therapies to the third edition of the Cell Therapy Glossary. This latest edition includes over 35 new terms as selected by an expert panel on which Ms. Solomon and Mr. Yaffe sat.
Published in Regenerative Medicine, the Glossary serves a critical purpose for both expert scientists and the lay public by standardizing and explaining the cell therapy terminology used in the regenerative medicine industry. The Glossary allows scientists around the world to “speak the same language” when describing exciting updates and new research.
The terms contributed by NYSCF:
Haplotype – a group of genes or alleles usually inherited together from a single parent, reflecting the haploid genotype
HLA Haplobank – a panel or repository of iPSC lines that are homozygous for HLA types and could be used to derive immunologically-compatible tissues for therapeutic transplantation
Mitochondria – subcellular organelles that generate chemical energy to power cellular processes and also serve as sites for numerous metabolic processes and reactions
Mitochondrial replacement – a potential therapy to prevent certain mitochondrial diseases by replacing mutant maternal mitochondria in an oocyte (egg) with those from an unaffected individual prior to in vitro fertilization
Genomic modification – stable, intentional and directed change of a cell’s DNA sequence using biotechnology methods
CRISPR/Cas – a biotechnology tool, utilizing components of a prokaryotic immune system, for making highly specific genomic modifications
RNA-Seq – an analytical method that can reveal the identities and quantities of RNAs expressed from genes in a cellular sample
Disease-in-a-dish – a human disease model comprised of cultured cells displaying properties of diseased tissue
Note: many such models are generated using cells differentiated from iPSCs derived from individuals with a specific disease
Paracrine – influence or signaling by a cell on nearby cells or tissues through localized secretion and diffusion of small molecules or proteins
Investigational New Drug Application (IND) – a key step in development of a new drug or medical treatment in which the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is notified that a novel therapeutic will be used experimentally
Stem Cell Tourism – seeking or receiving stem-cell based treatments for disease or injury from clinics or practitioners that offer untested or unproven therapies 
NYSCF - Robertson Neuroscience Investigator Dr. Ed Boyden and his team at MIT Media Lab published their latest work on an exciting new, noninvasive approach to treating Alzheimer’s disease. Using LED lights flickering at a specific frequency, the researchers have shown that they can substantially reduce the beta amyloid plaques, hallmark neurological build-ups seen in Alzheimer’s disease, in the visual cortex of mice.
Described in Nature, this technique appears to work by inducing brain waves known as gamma oscillations, which the researchers discovered help the brain suppress beta amyloid production and invigorate cells responsible for destroying the plaques.
This research represents a potential breakthrough in the understanding and treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, a devastating disorder affecting millions around the world. 
Wednesday, 07 December 2016 15:58

New Tools for Simultaneous, Multi-Gene Editing

NYSCF - Robertson Stem Cell Investigator and NYSCF - Robertson Stem Cell Prize Awardee Dr. Feng Zhang, the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, published his latest work expanding, modifying, and improving the CRISPR gene editing system.
The research, published in Nature Biotechnology, describes the ability to create CRISPR RNA that can be used to simplify multi-target genome editing. The scientists demonstrated this new tool by editing four genes in mammalian cells and three genes in the mouse brain, simultaneously. 
Gene editing technologies have opened up an entirely new arm of scientific research. The ability to modify multiple genes at one time is extremely useful for researching and ultimately, treating complex multi-gene conditions and diseases.  
Wednesday, 07 December 2016 15:46

Steps Towards Engineering Biological Cascades

NYSCF - Robertson Stem Cell Investigator Dr. Ed Boyden and his team at MIT Media Lab published their latest work on how to modify genetic circuits. The research, published in Nature Chemistry, describes the successful creation of synthetic biology cascades within liposomes, structures within cells, an important step towards engineering biological reactions for a variety of functions. 


Read the paper in Nature Chemistry >>

NYSCF - Druckenmiller Fellow Alumnus Dr. Fabien Lafaille, The Rockefeller University, and NYSCF - Druckenmiller Fellow Alumnus and NYSCF - Robertson Stem Cell Investigator Alumnus Dr. Gabsang Lee, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, authored a paper discussing the use of induced pluripotent stem cells to explore why patients with familial dysautonomia exhibit differing disease severities despite identical genetic mutations. 
Published in Nature Medicine, the scientists created induced pluripotent stem cells from patient skin samples, and then turned these stem cells into the neurons affected by the disease. While the genetic mutations were identical amongst different patients, the derived neurons exhibited differences in survival and specification. 
This study demonstrates that induced pluripotent stem cell disease modeling accurately captures the differences in disease severity, presenting an important step towards personalized medicine. 
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