Several years ago, Dr. Hina Chaudhry, Associate Professor of Medicine and Director of Cardiovascular Regenerative Medicine at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, discovered a new class of stem cells.
The stem cells she identified originate in the placenta—making them easy to obtain—and have the ability to form functional heart and blood cells. They also have an intrinsic property that allows them to develop into various types of heart cells, to home in on the site of an injury and repair it.
“It’s a novel finding—a paradigm shift,” she said about the discovery.
Dr. Chaudhry’s laboratory received their first NYSTEM (New York Stem Cell Science) award in 2014, when she proposed isolating these cells and introducing them to mice intravenously as a treatment for cardiac disease. The project was incredibly successful.
“The cells have really surprised us in what we are able to do with them,” she said.
Dr. Chaudhry was recently awarded a second NYSTEM grant to continue her work and translate her findings from mouse models to human applications.
NYSTEM funding has been critical in enabling this work, said Chaudhry, as the program has provided funding for more avant garde, early stage research on stem cells, whereas other funders, like NIH, look for more established projects.
“The NYSTEM funding has set us up to compete for NIH funding on this subject,” she said.
The funding has also helped create jobs and launch the careers of younger stem cell scientists, supporting the full salaries of two post-doctoral researchers in the lab.
Dr. Chaudhry is optimistic that the NYSTEM funded projects will lead to additional economic development, and has launched a biotech company with the hopes of commercializing her findings.