Trista E. North, Ph.D.
The North lab aims to harness hematopoietic stem cells for the treatment of hematologic disease by making it possible to efficiently expand or produce them in culture.
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 disorders and diseases, 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 human induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) in vitro hematologic differentiation and culture assays, and murine in vivo functional analyses, such as HSC transplantation.
Dr. North has 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. Starting with the identification of the essential stimulatory role of blood flow and mechanical forces in embryonic HSC formation, Dr. North's lab has uncovered a series of extrinsic or environmental cues, including metabolic state and sterile inflammatory signaling, that influence the spatio-temporal development and magnitude of HSC production across vertebrates, with direct 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), a member of the Dana-Farber/Harvard Cancer Center (DF/HCC) Leukemia Program and affiliated faculty in the Harvard University Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology. 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 2008, rejoining the Stem Cell Program and Department of Hematology and Oncology Boston Children's Hospital in 2017. Dr. North currently serves as Treasurer 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 Nominating Committee of the International Society of Experimental Hematology (ISEH).
Assistant: Aubrey Plumb