HSCI news briefs

HSCI collaborators make list of Bostonians of the year

Each December, the Boston Globe Magazine names more than a dozen local people whose actions over the year were “worthy of attention.” In 2013, two HSCI scientists made the list of honorable mentions: stem cell biologist Amy Wagers, PhD, and cardiologist Richard Lee, MD. The pair was chosen for their dramatic discovery that a factor in blood from younger mice can reverse age-related heart failure in older mice. This factor, a protein called GDF-11, is also found in humans. “When we demonstrate the experiment,” Lee said in the article, “I play the older mouse, and Amy plays the younger mouse.”

Webcast explains diseases in a dish

“Over the past 20 years, we’ve been unable to discover new therapeutics that could help patients with ALS, and this has not been from lack of considerable effort,” began HSCI Principal Faculty member Kevin Eggan, PhD, during a live public webcast on stem cells as drug discovery platforms. He explained how the diversity of mutations that cause ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, makes it hard to find a single cure that works for all patients. One solution Eggan pursues is to use induced pluripotent stem cells to grow an endless supply of ALS patient neurons in the lab, and then rapidly compare drugs on the many different mutations. His team is now investigating the most interesting candidates to come out of these experiments. The International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) hosted the event.

Kidney Program milestone

Since its inception, the HSCI Kidney Program has brought together renal specialists from across Harvard to better understand how a few stem cells can differentiate into fully functional kidneys. Program scientists recently made significant progress by coaxing human pluripotent stem cells into kidney tubules. These “starting blocks” can now be used to derive more specific kidney cells, inching us closer to the day when regenerative medicine, and not dialysis or transplantation, is used to treat kidney diseases. HSCI Executive Committee member Joseph Bonventre, MD, PhD, and Affiliated Faculty member, Albert Lam, MD, both at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, led the work.