In launching the Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology effort at Northwestern, we show a committment to grow and deepen our research community focusing on topics that could impact our work in this field and, ultimately, in the treatment of human diseases, including those of the heart, kidney, eye, muscle, liver, pancreas, and reproductive system, as well as neurological and degenerative diseases.
The mission of the Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology initiative is to accelerate breakthroughs in regenerative medicine that could lead to the repair, regeneration, or replacement of organs and tissues. Members of this initiative are basic scientist and clinicians that use a multidisciplinary approach to combining cellular reprogramming, patient-specific induced pluripotent stem cells, nanoengineering, tissue fabrication and developmental biology to achieve medical breakthroughs. This effort will complement and add to Northwestern’s already robust and highly productive research programs in basic sciences, clinical research, and nanotechnology.
Areas of Research
Our main research topics focus on the following basic and translational topics:
Understanding how each organ is created from a single cell and it renews itself throughout life is a major goal of researchers working in this area. Investigators working in these topics aim to better understand the biology of organ development and organ regeneration in normal and pathological conditions as a tool to new diagnostic and therapeutic approaches for a variety of diseases. They use a combination of animal models, embryonic and adult stem cells and in vitro generated organoids to address some of these fundamental questions and to understand what gets wrong in pathological conditions. This work should provide the framework for clinical trials of organ regeneration from adult stem cells.
Neurological, Neurodegenerative and Neuromuscular Diseases
Diseases of the nervous system represent an enormous burden in terms of human suffering and financial cost. Researchers working on this area utilize animal models and stem cell based approaches to understand disease processes and develop therapeutic treatments. In particular, the groundbreaking technologies of induced pluripotency and cellular reprogramming have generated a genuine opportunity to address fundamental aspects of neurological diseases using patients’ derived human cells. Priorities include Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, epilepsy, neuropsychiatric conditions and neuromuscular syndromes.
Cardiovascular Disease and Heart Regeneration
Heart failure is the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in the developed world. The primary basis of heart failure lies in the loss of cardiomyocytes due to ischemia or other insults, coupled with a lack significant regenerative capacity. Researchers working on this area seek to address cardiac regeneration using a number of approaches, including induced pluripotent stem cells, resident and non-resident cardiac progenitor cells, direct reprogramming, and stimulation of cardiomyocyte proliferation.
Research programs focus in investigating the causes and treatment approaches for pediatric disorders. Among those, researchers study neurological diseases, thalassemia, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy and pediatric cancers. Research conducted at the Stanley Manne Children's Research Institute also includes Developmental Biology as a tool to better understand the formation of the heart, skeleton, and craniofacial development. The institute has a strong program in regenerative medicine and stem cell biology focused on the regeneration of the bladder and bone.