NYSCF in the News
NYSCF – Robertson Stem Cell Investigator Dr. Paola Arlotta and a team of researchers at Harvard University developed protocols to create human brain organoids, organ models cultured from induced pluripotent stem cells, capable of growing and maturing to an unprecedented level. Typical organoids are developed and tested in a matter of weeks. The organoids, reported in Nature, were cultured and matured for nine months or longer.
The scientists analyzed gene expression in more than 80,000 cells taken from 31 brain organoids and compared the results to those documented from human brain tissue samples to identify the multitude of different brain cell types displayed in the organoids. These organoids also developed key traits such as spontaneously active neural networks, dendritic spines and light-sensitive cells. 
These human brain models enable a next-level platform for neuropsychiatric disease modeling and drug discovery.
NYSCF – Robertson Neuroscience Investigator Dr. Ed Boyden of MIT Media Lab was also an author on the paper.


Read more in the Harvard Gazette >>

Read the paper in Nature >>

NYSCF – Robertson Neuroscience Investigator Dr. Ed Boyden and his team at MIT Media Lab published their latest work advancing and improving their revolutionary imaging technique: expansion microscopy. The research, published in Nature Methods, describes an advance on standard expansion microscopy, increasing magnification by 20x the sample size. 

The expansion microscopy technique revolutionized imaging by physically expanding biological specimens while maintaining their characteristics and proportions. Standard expansion microscopy begins by embedding and homogenizing a specimen in a dense polymer gel. The specimen is then physically expanded by 4.5x its starting size by swelling the gel. This technique enables scientists to study the biological structures of minute specimens with unheard of clarity, using standard microscopes and magnification. 

The new process, dubbed iterative expansion microscopy, puts the sample through an additional expansion enabling nanometer resolution imaging of cells and tissues on conventional microscopes. 


Read the paper in Nature Methods >>

Read the press release in MIT News >>

NYSCF – Robertson Neuroscience Investigator Dr. Lisa Giocomo and a team at Stanford University published their recent work in Neuron investigating how navigation works in the brain. Grid cells, commonly known as the GPS of the brain, along with border, head direction, and speed cells comprise the four main types of cells in the navigation system in mammalian brains. The scientists found that the navigation system and the cells that comprise it are much more complex and multifaceted than previously assumed. Instead of distinct cell types, they found that many cells displayed characteristics of multiple cell types and even the flexibility to display traits of one type followed by the traits of another. 

This work upends the assumption that our navigational brain function can be mapped with a mathematical model. Much more research is needed to fully understand the navigation process, including a fundamental reassessment of the mechanisms in play. 


Read the paper in Neuron >>

Read the press release from Stanford News >>

The traditional cell replacement therapy model relies on manufacturing the relevant cell type in the lab and injecting or replacing these cells into the patient, curing or treating their disease. NYSCF – Robertson Stem Cell Investigator Alumnus and NYSCF – Robertson Stem Cell Prize recipient Dr. Marius Wernig and his team at Stanford University explored a new method of potential cell replacement therapy for Parkinson's disease in their latest Nature Biotechnology paper. The researchers explored directly converting astrocytes, a different type of brain cell, into the dopaminergic neurons lost in Parkinson's disease. Testing their theory in a dish using human cells, and in a mouse model directly, the scientists found that this approach is theoretically possible, including improvements seen in the mouse models. 
This type of research represents a potential breakthrough in cell replacement therapies, introducing a technique in which cell replacement may be achieved through gene therapy instead of whole cell replacement. 


Read the paper in Nature Biotechnology >>

NYSCF – Robertson Stem Cell Investigator Alumnus and NYSCF – Robertson Stem Cell Prize recipient Dr. Marius Wernig of Stanford University published exciting results showing that nerve cells actively repress transforming into alternate cell states. The research, published in Nature, describes how nerve cells use a powerful repressor protein - Myt1l - to actively maintain their identity, suppressing the expression of genes associated with non-neuronal cell types, including skin, heart, lung, cartilage and liver. 

This research is critically important for scientists trying to understand the minutia of the life cycle and function of nerves and neurons. Understanding these cells throughout their entire developmental cycle may lead to new treatments or cures for diseases caused by neuron death or dysfunction, such as Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis, and Alzheimer's disease among many others.


Read the paper in Nature >>

Read the press release on EurekAlert >>

NYSCF – Robertson Stem Cell Investigator Alumnus Dr. Paul Tesar of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine collaborated with NYSCF scientists Dr. Valentina Fossati and Dr. Panos Douvaras to explore the varied genetics behind Pelizaeus-Merzbacher Disease, a rare neurological disorder. Using stem cells, the scientists created models of the disease in a dish that displayed different genetic scenarios, identifying individual and shared defects that could inform treatment efforts.
This research, published in The American Journal of Human Genetics, could have a significant impact on clinical approaches to treating this deadly childhood disorder. 


Read the paper in The American Journal of Human Genetics >>

Read the press release on EurekAlert >>

President Donald Trump's proposed 2018 budget cuts $5.8 billion from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), about 20% of its current budget. While these numbers represent a request to Congress and not a final agreement, the cuts are a dramatic statement against science as a priority for the administration and for our country.

These cuts, if implemented, may have a greater negative impact on the stem cell research field than the restrictions implemented by former President Bush. Ongoing NIH funding is critical to all biomedical research, including ours at The New York Stem Cell Foundation. Cutting these funds is a major risk for all research, and threatens to slow down or stop potentially lifesaving experiments while also put at risk the jobs of many scientists across the country.

The President has also proposed significant budget cuts to the NIH and other scientific agencies for the remainder of this year’s budget. These drastic measures would be a major step back for the advancement of science and medicine in the United States.


Read more from Nobel Laureate and founding NYSCF Medical Advisory Board Member Dr. Harold Varmus in the New York Times >>

Politico spoke with NYSCF CEO Susan L. Solomon about the proposed cuts, read the story here (firewalled) >>

In a collaborative tour de force, five female principal investigators, including NYSCF's own Dr. Valentina Fossati, are elucidating the role of energy metabolism in the progression of multiple sclerosis (MS) in work funded by the Department of Defense. The multidisciplinary team is collecting patient samples and data across a range of Multiple Sclerosis disease types over the course of two years. March is both MS awareness month and host to International Women’s Day. This unique grant and collaborative effort highlight the importance and impact of women in STEM and shed light on current efforts to find cures for multiple sclerosis. 
Patients enrolled in the project are clinically assessed by Dr. Ilana Katz, and further assessed by Dr. Matilde Inglese with brain magnetic resonance imaging, which will further enhance the classification of the patient to one of the three stages of MS disease progression. Skin biopsies are then collected and reprogrammed into induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells by the NYSCF Global Stem Cell Array, permitting Dr. Fossati and her team to generate patient specific neural cells, which will hopefully shed light on the mechanisms of disease progression.
The five Principal Investigators are:
  • Dr. Ilana Katz-Sand, an assistant professor of neurology at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City and a member of the MS Microbiome Consortium. Current research projects include studies on the mechanisms of neuronal degeneration in progressive MS, an investigation of the role of the gut microbiome in MS, as well as a clinical trial for neuromyelitis optica. In addition to her own projects, Dr. Katz Sand participates in MS clinical trials. She is also involved in education, teaching residents and medical students at Mount Sinai, and lectures on MS and NMO to other physicians and patients. 


  • Dr. Patrizia Casaccia, recently named the founding director of the CUNY Advanced Science Research Center’s (ASRC) Neuroscience Initiative. Her research at the ASRC focuses on glial cell biology, the study of those cells most common the central nervous system. She maintains an affiliation with the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, where she has previously served as professor with the Department of Neuroscience, Neurology and Department of Genomics and Multiscale Biology. She also directed the Center of Excellence for Myelin Repair within the Friedman Brain Institute.


  • Dr. Catarina Quinzii, an Assistant Professor at Columbia University Medical Center, with expertise in neurology, neuroscience and genetics, and also holds an appointment in the Division of Neuromuscular Medicine. Her research involves investigating the role of mitochondria dysfunction in disease progression.


  • Dr. Matilde Inglese, an Associate Professor of Neurology, Radiology and Neuroscience at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. Her lab focuses on understanding the pathophysiological mechanisms leading to disease onset and progression in patients with multiple sclerosis. She serves as a member of the National Institute of Health study sections, and is also a member of the American Academy of Neurology and the International Society of Magnetic Resonance in Medicine.


  • Dr. Valentina Fossati, an Investigator at the New York Stem Cell Foundation since 2011. She was a recipient of the NYSCF - Druckenmiller Fellowship in 2009. Her current research focuses on using induced pluripotent stem cell modeling for understanding neurodegeneration in MS. 


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