Neural Stem Cell Institute, Scientific Director, Principal Investigator and Co-Founder
Albany Medical College, Professor of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics (DNET)
Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness affecting 1 in 5 people over the age of 75. As AMD progresses, patients lose the ability to recognize faces or read, and they become increasingly dependent and experience deteriorating quality of life. Dr. Temple and her colleagues discovered that adult eyes already contain stem cells that can be used to make new retinal pigment epithelial cells, in order to effectively treat the currently incurable disease. Thanks to NYSTEM funding, she’s preparing to launch the first clinical trials to transplant this patented adult retinal stem cell.
Saghi Ghaffari, MD, PhD
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai; Professor of Cell, Developmental & Regenerative Biology
Dr. Saghi Ghaffari received her first NYSTEM award in 2008, when she was working with embryonic stem cells to identify factors that might regulate the cells’ pluripotent properties (their ability to develop into any type of specialized cell in the body). The NYSTEM grant enabled her to identify a specific factor in the cells that establishes pluripotency, contributes to the cells’ longevity, and is important in multiple parts of the body.
Dimitris G. Placantonakis, MD, PhD
NYU School of Medicine, Assistant Professor, Department of Neurosurgery; Director, Neurosurgical Laboratory for Stem Cell Research
Dr. Dimitris G. Placantonakis is a physician-scientist—he both removes and researches a specific type of brain tumor, called low-grade gliomas. The surgery is not a cure, as tumor cells infiltrate the brain and cannot be totally removed. Other conventional treatments, like chemotherapy and radiation, fail to eradicate these specific cells. That’s why Dr. Placantonakis is researching better treatments for these tumors with the help of stem cells.
Michal K. Stachowiak, PhD
Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo, Professor of Pathology and Anatomical Sciences
Symptoms of schizophrenia usually appear in adolescence or young adulthood, but new research by Dr. Stachowiak and colleagues reveals that the brain disease likely begins much earlier, toward the end of the first trimester of pregnancy. The finding expands our understanding of this devastating disease and opens up the potential for early detection and treatment in utero. The research uses recently developed technology called cerebral organoids, in which stem cells are grown into “mini-brains” that resemble the developing human brain in its earliest stages.
Todd Evans, PhD
Weill Cornell Medicine, Associate Dean for Research, Peter I. Pressman, M.D. Professor in Surgery
In 2017, Dr. Todd Evans and his colleagues published pioneering research on their development of the first-ever human tissue platform to test drugs for colon cancer. Using a “disease in a Petri dish” model derived from stem cells, his team identified a targeted drug treatment for a common, inherited form of the disease. This technique of screening drugs using cultivated cells with certain mutations is at the forefront of precision medicine, developing targeted treatments for patients’ individualized cases. It also has the potential to change the future of healthcare from one-size-fits-all treatment to personalized treatment strategies.
Erika Bach, PhD
NYU School of Medicine, Associate Professor, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Pharmacology
Stem cells are often considered the future of medicine, but much is still unknown about how they work. That’s why Dr. Erika Bach and her team are closely studying basic, universal properties of stem cells. They are working to identify the stem cells’ home, or niche in the body, and better understand what makes stem cells move through active and dormant states. Improved knowledge of the behavior of stem cells in their natural environment —the body, versus a petri dish— will help researchers in the future make discoveries that are more biologically sound and medically relevant, said Dr. Bach.
Dr. Hina Chaudhry, MD
Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, Associate Professor of Medicine and Director of Cardiovascular Regenerative Medicine
Dr. Chaudhry received her first NYSTEM award in 2014, when she proposed isolating and introducing a new type of stem cell population her laboratory discovered to mice intravenously as a treatment for cardiac disease. These stem cells have the ability to form functional heart and blood cells, in addition to an intrinsic property that allows them to home in on the site of an injury and repair it.
NYU Langone Medical Center, William Goldring Professor of Medicine; Director, Leon H. Charney Division of Cardiology
Sudden cardiac arrest kills 300,000 Americans every year. That’s why Dr. Fishman and his colleagues are using stem cells to study the electrical activity that keeps the heart beating. They do this by directing stem cells to develop into the specific subtypes of heart cells to study, which allows the researchers to better understand the specialized heart cells at a genetic level, and look into why they fail. The ultimate goal is that this research will lead to improved treatment to keep the heart beating in rhythm, up to a few billion beats over a lifetime.
University of Rochester Medical Center, Professor of Genetics and Neuroscience
Director, UR Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Institute
For families facing diagnoses of lysosomal storage disorders – a group of about 50 devastating inherited diseases affecting a patient’s enzymes, including Krabbe, Gaucher and Tay-Sachs diseases – there are virtually no useful treatments. Dr. Noble’s lab is developing new therapies, in the hopes of reducing the tremendous cost of these degenerative diseases to the patients, their families and the health care system at large. NYSTEM-funded research has already led to the discovery of entirely novel approaches to treating some of these disorders, by finding new therapeutic avenues and uncovering previously unsuspected properties of existing drugs. Dr. Noble is also exploring the application of this research to Parkinson’s Disease.