Keck Award goes to Amy Wagers, HSCI Executive Committee member

Amy Wagers, PhD, is the recipient of the W.M. Keck Foundation award under its Distinguished Young Scholars in Medical Research Program. Wagers is assistant professor of pathology at Harvard Medical School and Joslin Diabetes Center. She will receive up to $1 million in research funding over the next five years to expand her work on using stem cells to better understand and eventually treat diseases such as cancer, immune deficiency, and muscle dysfunction.

Wagers is interested in, among other topics, the mechanisms that regulate function of blood-forming and muscle-forming stem cells. Her work has identified particular gene regulators that appear to coordinate stem cell migration and expansion, potentially leading to ways to increase the efficacy of bone marrow transplantation and to better understand the events that contribute to the development of leukemia. Like many investigators, she is working with both ES cells and adult stem cells in mouse and human models.

In the muscle, Wagers recently isolated a unique population of cells from adult mouse skeletal muscle that has tissue-specific stem cell properties and has been found to generate many new muscle fibers after transplantation. For diseases such as muscular dystrophy, this work may provide a feasible approach to stimulating therapeutic muscle repair in humans. Wagers, as a result of a Jain Foundation grant, is examining the decline in regenerative capacity of skeletal muscle that occurs in a rare form of muscular dystrophy called Miyoshi myopathy, with a focus on identifying blood circulating factors that may be harnessed to remedy disease symptoms.