NYSCF in the News

Bringing treatments out of laboratories and into clinics remains a major obstacle for healthcare. Mice and other common lab animals cannot reliably predict human responses to the same treatment. Using human stem cells sourced directly from patients, NYSCF overcomes that translational obstacle. The Wall Street Journal’s article, “Stem Cells Help Evaluate Experimental Alzheimer’s Drugs” cites NYSCF CEO Susan L. Solomon laying out the path towards the future of disease modeling and treatment testing directly in patients’ cells. Specifically for evaluating new, experimental treatments to Alzheimer’s, a leading cause of dementia, stem cells generated from patient samples can be turned into brain cells to afford scientists the capacity to look at patients’ neurons without disrupting patients’ lives. The WSJ article also notes a paper featured in The Lancet co-authored by scientific advisor to NYSCF Mahendra Rao on the necessity of accelerating stem cell trials for Alzheimer’s disease.


Read more in The Wall Street Journal >>

Read more in The Lancet Neurology >>

NYSCF – Robertson Stem Cell Investigator Ravindra Majeti studies cancer stem cells in leukemia towards creating high quality and patient-specific treatments. Dr. Majeti, Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine, Division of Hematology, and Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at Stanford University, published a paper in Cell Stem Cell focusing on mutations in proteins identified in leukemias. These proteins, cohesins, play important roles in separating chromosomes during cell division and aid in DNA damage repair. Dr. Majeti’s recent study finds mutant cohesins block blood stem and progenitor cells from differentiation. The mutant cohesins associate with DNA and impair generation of new blood cells. Understanding the roles of aberrant molecules in disease gives researchers the power to create therapies to potentially reverse adverse conditions.  


Read the paper in Cell >>

NYSCF – Robertson Neuroscience Investigator Vanessa Ruta examined how the brains of fruit flies pass signals from odors to different behavioral pathways. Dr. Ruta, Rockefeller University, shows in her latest paper featured in Cell that the mushroom body, a pair of structures in insect brains, acts as a ‘switchboard’ to relay sensory information to different neuronal networks based on the fruit fly’s previous experience and context. Ruta’s Rockefeller University group of researchers concludes that a single olfactory input can manifest in various behaviors based on individual neurons receiving and passing information to different networks. The study uses imaging technology and electrophysiology to understand what happens between neurons at synapses to make sense of how fruit fly brains process odors.


Read the paper and listen to an interview with Dr. Ruta in Cell >>

NYSCF-Robertson Neuroscience Investigator Dr. Winrich Freiwald, The Rockefeller University, published his latest paper understanding how mammals make sense of faces in PLoS Biology. Faces convey an abundance of social information and Dr. Freiwald’s paper, for this first time, makes sense of how this information is exchanged between different brain regions. Brain areas that process facial information pass information to regions of the brain associated with social cognition.  The research takes advantage of fMRI technology, which reveals brain activity by measuring changes in blood flow in the brain. Freiwald’s lab showed that areas of the brain associated with facial recognition are embedded in a larger brain network, which connects facial recognition to structures that support emotive, memory, and cognitive functions.


Read the paper in PLoS Biology >>

NYSCF – Robertson Investigator Dr. Feng Zhang pioneered technology to edit DNA. The system he created, CRISPR/Cas9, means scientists can now study disease, cures, and cellular functions by quickly and easily manipulating genes.  Dr. Zhang, The Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT and The McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, published a paper in Science that investigates engineering the genome editing protein, Cas9. While the CRISPR system has proved revolutionary for scientists to study our cells, researchers have struggled with its ability to edit unintended stretches of DNA, preventing clinical application. In engineering Cas9, Dr. Zhang’s lab created a protein that reduces “off-target” effects of this breakthrough technology that lifts the entire field of biomedical research.


Read the paper in Science >>

Read more in The Atlantic >>

Read more in Stat >>

Read more in Nature News >>

(Photo: Len Rubenstein, courtesy of Broad Institute Communications)

NYSCF – Robertson Neuroscience Investigator Dr. Ed Boyden, MIT, received a Breakthrough Prize, an award of $3 million, and was celebrated like a star at the Breakthrough Prize ceremony in California. The Breakthrough Prize, established by Internet pioneers such as Sergey Brin of Google, Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook and Jack Ma of Alibaba, was designed to recognize scientists like the celebrities they are.  

Dr. Boyden’s work is seminal in neuroscience. His research gives scientists the tools to zoom in on brain functions, isolating and studying different neurons and their interactions. In developing optogenics, he created a system that allows researchers to control neurons with light, revolutionizing neuroscientists’ capacity to understand the brain.    


Read about the Breakthrough Prize in The New York Times 

NYSCF – Robertson Investigator Dr. Alexander Meissner, Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard, along with NYSCF – Robertson Investigator Dr. Gabsang Lee, John Hopkins University, explored the features of induced pluripotent stem, iPS, cells as compared to embryonic stem cells. They showed that stem cells from embryos, and stem cells from adult cells transformed into ‘embryonic-like’ cells are functionally and molecularly the same. This is a concern that has plagued the field since iPS cells were first generated in 2007. They published their innovative research in Nature Biotechnology where they compared embryonic stem cells and iPS cells from the same donor and found no significant differences in these cells that have the power to mature into any type of cell in the human body, a concept termed ‘pluripotentcy.’

Appearing in the same issue of Nature Biotechnology, Dr. Meissner’s research team also published a study on a new method developed to characterize the pluripotency of stem cells. Their method quantifies the expression of genes involved in cell pluripotency. The “ScoreCard” created by the research team can also be utilized to characterize a variety of cells, molecules, and conditions cells live in. Both pieces of research supported by NYSCF push the scientific community toward a better understanding of stem cells so that research can best harness their power to create cures. 


Read the first paper in Nature Biotechnology 

Read the second paper in Nature Biotechnology 

As NYSCF – Robertson Investigator Feng Zhang, Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, explained at The NYSCF Conference, “Nature is smarter than us.” Dr. Zhang’s lab works to discover bacterial proteins that can cut DNA at targeted sites in order to create a toolbox of proteins that can edit DNA. Previously, Dr. Zhang pioneered the CRISPR-Cas system which uses RNA that can interact with DNA to guide Cas proteins to specific sites to cut DNA, effectively altering the genome. 
In Dr. Zhang’s latest work published in Cell, his laboratory shows another protein, Cpf1, can cleave DNA, and that proteins similar to Cpf1 may also have this capacity. He followed up this publication with a study in Molecular Cell that identifies other proteins that function distinctly from previously identified proteins which can be guided to edit target DNA.  
This work expands research’s repertoire of tools to harness, understand and overcome nature. CRISPR gene editing systems are currently in use toward understanding genes and disease, and are also studied for their therapeutic potential.

Read the Molecular Cell paper >>


Read more about Dr. Zhang’s work:

The New Yorker

STAT News 

The New York Times

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