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What's new in HSCI research

Improving stem cell-derived pancreatic cells with genetic engineering

The stem cell-based approach to treating Type 1 diabetes is successfully being tested in the clinic, using a transplant of stem cell-derived beta cells to give patients their own source of insulin. HSCI Co-Director Douglas Melton is developing a solution to one challenge of the therapy, the cells’ vulnerability to stress and the immune system.
  • What they did: The researchers genetically engineered beta cells, selectively reducing the levels of four mediators of stress susceptibility and immune cell recognition.
  • What they found: The engineered cells were more resistant to stress from inflammatory molecules or high glucose. They were also less susceptible to being killed by immune cells, showing overall increased survival in lab culture experiments.
  • Why it matters: This method can be used to improve beta cell therapy by increasing the cells’ resistance to the body’s immune response and environmental triggers at the transplantation site.

Cyborg brain organoids offer insight into early brain development

Brain organoids — brain-like structures grown in petri dishes from human stem cells — have helped scientists better understand a range of neurological disorders. However, recording individual neurons as they develop has been challenging. Now, researchers led by Jia Liu have developed a non-invasive recording system that can be integrated within growing brain tissue.
  • What they did: The researchers embedded stretchable nanoelectronics into brain organoids, which can be can be used to record individual neurons and study brain development over time.
  • What they found: They successfully created the first long-term stable 3D electrical map of human brain organoid development over the time course of brain development.
  • Why it matters: These cyborg organoids can be used for fundamental neuroscience as well as patient-specific drug screening to test how electrical signals in the brain change or evolve based on different drugs.

HSCI Principal Faculty member Vijay Sankaran has received the 2022 E. Mead Johnson Award from the Society for Pediatric Research

HSCI Principal Faculty member Vijay Sankaran has received the 2022 E. Mead Johnson Award from the Society for Pediatric Research. The award recognizes his research that uses human genetic variation to advance our understanding of blood cell production, as well as how the process goes wrong in disease. His findings have led to clinical advances for children with blood disorders.
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