This year the Maryland Stem Cell Research Fund awarded 29 of 40 grants to Johns Hopkins researchers for the study of stem cell metabolism and regulation, the creation of new cell models for human diseases such as schizophrenia and Rett syndrome, which previously could be studied only in animals, and the development of new potential therapies.
Researchers whose preliminary data promised greater discoveries were awarded Investigator-Initiated grants. Jeff Bulte, Ph.D., professor of radiology, biomedical engineering and chemical and biomolecular engineering and a member of the Institute for Cell Engineering, hopes to develop a cell therapy for treatment of type 1 diabetes — an autoimmune disorder in which the immune system kills the insulin-producing cells that help regulate blood sugar. By developing cloaked stem and insulin-producing cells that can evade immune system detection, Bulte and his team hope to replace damaged cells and restore insulin levels in patients.
Grants were awarded to:
- Bulte, for his project "Co-Encapsulation of Human Mesenchymal Stem Cells and Islet Cells for Treatment of Type 1 Diabetes"
- Ted Dawson, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Institute for Cell Engineering, for his project "Generation and Characterization of Isogenic Parkinson's Disease and Control iPS Cells"
- Jennifer Elisseeff, Ph.D., Jules Stein Professor of Ophthalmology and director of the Translational Tissue Engineering Center, in collaboration with Tissue Banks International Inc. & CIRM, for her project "ECM-Based Materials for Stem Cell Differentiation and Bone Repair"
- Gabsang Lee, D.V.M., Ph.D., assistant professor of neurology and neuroscience, in collaboration with Life Technologies Inc., for his project "Derivation of Functional Nociceptive Neurons From hESC and Its Application to Pain-Disorder Human iPSC"
- Guo-li Ming, M.D., Ph.D., professor of neurology and neuroscience, for her project "Toward Correction of Neurodevelopmental Defects of Neurons Derived from Patients with Mental Disorders"
- Zack Wang, Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine, for his project "Vascular Progenitor Cell Generation from Human Pluripotent Stem Cells (hPSC) for Peripheral Vascular Diseases"
Several Johns Hopkins investigators were awarded Exploratory grants for researchers either new to the stem cell field or with untested but promising new ideas. Miroslaw Janowski , M.D., Ph.D., a research associate in radiology, plans to develop a stroke treatment by guiding newly introduced brain cells with magnets through blood vessels to the site of injury.
Exploratory grants were awarded to:
- Gerald Brandacher, M.D., scientific director of the Composite Tissue Allotransplantation Program, for his project "Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell (iPS) Derived Schwann Cells to Enhance Functional Recovery Following Nerve Injury and Limb Allotransplantation"
- M. Valeria Canto-Soler, Ph.D., director of the Retinal Degeneration Research Center in Ophthalmology, for her project "Development of 3D-Culture Systems of Human iPSC Derived-Retinal Cells for Clinical Applications"
- Janowski, for his project in collaboration with Q Therapeutics Inc. on "Magnet-Navigated Targeting of Myelin Producing Cells to the Stroke Via Intraventricular Route in a Large Animal Model"
- Hongkai Ji, Ph.D., assistant professor of biostatistics at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, for his project "Global Prediction of Transcription Factor Binding Sites in Lineage Specific Neuronal Differentiation"
- Baktiar Karim, B.V.M.S., Ph.D., assistant professor in molecular and comparative pathobiology, for his project "CD133: A Master Regulator of Intestinal Differentiation and Stem Cell Regeneration in Crohn's Disease"
- Chulan Kwon, Ph.D., assistant professor of cardiology, for his project "Membrane Notch Control of Human Cardiovascular Progenitors"
- Martin Pomper, M.D., Ph.D., the William R. Brody Professor of Radiology, for his project "New ALDH Based Imaging Agents for Stem Cells"
- Sivaprakash Ramalingam, Ph.D., M.S., a postdoctoral fellow in environmental health sciences at the Bloomberg School of Public Health, for his project "Functional Correction of hiPSCs with Homozygous Sickle Cell Disease Mutation Using Engineered ZFNs/TALENs"
- Antony Rosen, M.D., the Mary Betty Stevens Professor of Medicine and director of rheumatology, for his project "Using hESCs to Define Novel Scleroderma Autoantigens in Stem Cells and Vascular Progenitors"
- Arun Venkatesan, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of neurology, for his project "Novel Human iPSC-Based Model of Axon Degeneration In Multiple Sclerosis"
Postdoctoral trainees also will receive funding for research projects. A fellow in biomedical engineering, Pinar Huri, Ph.D., will use her award to develop bone grafts with blood vessels inside made from fat tissue-derived stem cells. The grafts would be used in patients with severely damaged bone in need of reconstructive surgery.
Postdoctoral grants were awarded to:
- Amnon Bar-Shir, Ph.D., of the Institute for Cell Engineering, for "Mri-Based Reporter Genes for Non-Invasive Assessment of the Fate of Stem Cell-Seeded Scaffolds"
- Su Mi Choi, Ph.D, of the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, in collaboration with Cellomics Technology LLC, for "Patient Specific Stem Cell based In Vitro Model of Liver Cirrhosis"
- Christopher Donnelly, Ph.D., of neurology, for "Development of an Antisense Oligonucleotide Therapeutic Utilizing Stem Cell Derived Patient Astrocytes to Treat ALS and Dementias Caused by C9ORF72 Expanded Hexanucleotide Repeat"
- Gabriel Ghiaur, M.D., Ph.D., of the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center, for "Retinoic Acid (RA) Controls Self Renewal and Differentiation of Human Hematopoietic Stem Cells (HSCs)"
- Huri, for "Engineering Clinically Applicable Vascularized Bone Grafts Using Adipose-Derived Stem Cells"
- Eunchai Kang, of the Institute for Cell Engineering, for "Modeling of Major Mental Disorders Using Human Induced Pluripotent Cells Derived from Patients with a Defined Disc1 Mutation"
- Chaekyu Kim, Ph.D., of ophthalmology and biomedical engineering, for "Small Molecules to Influence Metabolism in Stem Cells and Tissue Formation in Hydrogels"
- Changmei Liu, Ph.D., of orthopaedic surgery, for "Small RNA Regulation of GSK3 Expression Modulates Human Neural Stem Cells Proliferation and Differentiation"
- Georgia Makri, Ph.D., of the Institute for Cell Engineering, for "Patient-Specific iPSCs for Modeling and Treatment of Rett Syndrome"
- Sharyn Rossi, Ph.D., of ophthalmology and biomedical engineering, for "Optogenetic Analysis of Stem Cell Integration into Forebrain Circuits Following Traumatic Axonal Injury"
- Kit Tsang, Ph.D., of the Institute for Cell Engineering, for "Epigenetic Regulation of Hematopoietic Differentiation from Human Pluripotent Stem Cells"
- Yi-Lan Weng, Ph.D., of the Institute for Cell Engineering, for "Effects of DNA Methylation Reprogramming in Axonal Plasticity and Regeneration"
- Yaxue Zeng, Ph.D., of the Institute for Cell Engineering, for "Characterizing the Role of Active DNA Demethylation in Reprogramming of Human Somatic Cell into Stem Cells"