Trista E. North, PhD
Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) give rise to each of the blood lineages present throughout a vertebrate's lifetime. The gene programs and signaling networks regulating HSC development and function in the embryo and adult are highly evolutionarily conserved, with dysregulation resulting in hematologic malignancies, such as anemia and leukemia. HSCs are therapeutically valuable for the treatment of hematologic disease, but are in limited supply and currently cannot be effectively expanded or produced de novo in culture. Research in the North laboratory utilizes genetic methods and chemical biology approaches in zebrafish to identify and characterize pathways regulating HSC induction, expansion and function in vivo; to examine conservation of regulatory effect and translational application, we employ both murine and human in vitro culture assays, and in vivo functional analyses, such as HSC transplantation.
Dr. North has had a long-standing, impactful role in stem cell research: her graduate work revealed the essential functional requirement for Runx1 in definitive HSC formation in the mouse embryo; Runx1 is now considered the definitive marker of HSC specification during vertebrate embryogenesis, required for the transition from an endothelial to hematopoietic state which initiates life-long hematopoiesis. As a postdoc, via a novel unbiased bioactive in vivo chemical screening approach in zebrafish, Dr. North discovered several novel regulatory pathways impacting HSC production across vertebrates. This methodology led to the first example of FDA approval for the investigational use of a compound identified in zebrafish (PGE2) for the treatment of human disease. Finally, beginning with the identification of the essential stimulatory role of blood flow in embryonic HSC formation, Dr. North's laboratory has uncovered a series of extrinsic or "environmental" cues, including metabolic state and sterile inflammatory cues, that influence the spatio-temporal development and magnitude of HSC production across vertebrates, which may have therapeutic relevance for ex vivo HSC formation or expansion.
Dr. Trista E. North is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Boston Children's Hospital (BCH) and Harvard Medical School (HMS) in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. She is Co-Director of the Developmental and Regenerative Biology Program and Faculty of the Biological and Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program at HMS. She is also Principal Faculty at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute (HSCI), and a member of the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center (DF/HCC) Leukemia Program. Dr. North received her BA from Bowdoin College in 1996, and her PhD from Dartmouth College in 2002. She conducted her graduate work with Dr. Nancy A. Speck (University of Pennsylvania) and her postdoctoral research with Dr. Leonard I. Zon at Boston Children's Hospital. Dr. North started her own laboratory at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) in 2008. She returned to Boston Children's Hospital in 2017, joining the Stem Cell Program and Department of Hematology and Oncology. Dr. North currently serves on the board of Directors for the Zebrafish Disease Models Society (ZDMS), the Scientific Committee on Stem Cells for the American Society of Hematology (ASH) and as a member of the Awards Committee of the International Society of Experimental Hematology (ISEH).