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.
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 more about Dr. Zhang’s work:
NYSCF - Robertson Neuroscience Investigator Dr. Paola Arlotta, Harvard Stem Cell Institute and the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT, showed that neuronal networks of communication between reprogrammed neurons and the surrounding cells can be changed. Essentially, that the neighboring cells of reprogrammed neurons recognize that they are changed, and therefore change how they communicate with the 'new' cells. This work, published in Neuron, builds on Dr. Arlotta's previous finding that neurons can be reprogrammed into different neuronal types in the brains of live animals, a result that upended traditional neurobiology dogma.
This research has vast implications on understanding how neural communication works and builds circuits in early development as well as how this communication frays and deteriorates in neurodegenerative and psychiatric diseases such as autism and schizophrenia.
This October, NYSCF honored Stephen M. Ross, Jack and Jeff Gernsheimer, and Mark McCauley as stem cell heroes at the 10th Anniversary Gala. Held at Skylight at Moynihan Station, the annual Gala brought together NYSCF friends, scientists, and supporters to celebrate the past 10 years of success and to look forward to the next ten years and beyond.
In 2011 NYSCF awarded Dr. Pete Coffey the inaugural NYSCF–Robertson Stem Cell Prize for his pioneering work bringing stem cell therapies to patients with macular degeneration. Now patients in the UK can begin to realize the promises of regenerative medicine as treatments move into the clinic. Dr. Pete Coffey co-leads The London Project to Cure Blindness, which, with NYSCF support, has begun to translate stem cell research into cures. Announced in September, the first patient received treatment for ‘wet’ age-related macular degeneration. The researchers behind the clinical trial used stem cells to create a patch of eye cells, retinal pigment epithelium, to transplant into patients with diseased retinal pigment epithelium. Thus far, the patient remains healthy boding well for this clinical trial to confirm safety and efficacy.
As part of CUNY’s ongoing Women in Science series, NYSCF CEO and Co-founder Susan L. Solomon was asked to speak at “Breaking Barriers to Success,” a panel discussion on how women make their way to the top of their fields. Solomon sat across other pioneering women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) outside of academia: Tracy Day, CEO and Co-founder of World Science Festival, and Reshma Saujani, CEO and Founder of Girls Who Code. The event series organized by CUNY’s Advanced Science Research Center aspires to help women develop professionally and build a community of women scientists.
The National Institute of Health (NIH) invited Susan Solomon to chair and moderate a panel at September’s NIH Workshop on Reproducibility in Cell Culture Studies. The panel, within the “Emerging Challenges and Opportunities” session of the workshop focused on the difficulties of stem cells and engineered environments. Solomon explored the challenges of modeling diseases in a dish and approaches that NYSCF has taken to develop reproducible stem cell culture studies. Among conversations about guidelines for stem cell production and maintenance, genetic diversity represented by stem cells, and current biotechnology, the panel discussed how the NYSCF Global Stem Cell ArrayTM responds to the issues of reproducibility in the field by automating the production of stem cells to reduce human error and standardize the production of stem cells, increasing reproducibility of stem cell research. Dr. Scott Noggle, NYSCF Vice President of Stem Cell Research also participated on several other panels discussing various issues related to cell culture reproducibility.