Igor Nasonkin, Ph.D.
Igor graduated from St. Petersburg University in 1992 (B.Sci, Molecular Biology and Biochemistry). He specialized in retroviral gene transfer (1988-1992) and gene therapy of atherosclerosis and continued this research in Savio Woo’s lab at Baylor. While at Baylor, he became interested in designing animal models of human genetic diseases, embryonic stem cells and targeted gene changes in ES cells, as one of the promising approaches to treat human diseases. In order to better understand human gene function and structure for better design of targeted therapies, Igor became involved in the cloning of the human retinal gene ABCR (with Dr. Bob Molday, UBC), mutations in which cause Stargardt disease. This research experience further raised his interest in human genetics, and brought him to the University of Michigan, where he combined many of his previous interests and worked on transgenic and knockout models of another human hereditary disease, dwarfism, utilizing gene transfer, ES cells, developmental biology and embryology (Dr. Sally Camper lab, 1997-2002).
The University of Michigan experience brought Igor to MIT where he did his first postdoctoral research in embryology and nuclear transfer (cloning) with Dr. Rudolf Jaenisch. Here, he tried to evaluate the potential of ntr for stem cell therapies. The research convinced him that the human ES approach may be the most promising approach, and he spent a year learning this technology with the human stem cell company Bresagen. Igor later moved to Johns Hopkins University and spent 3 years of postdoctoral research in the laboratory of Dr. Vassilis Koliatsos. Here he applied human ES cell technology to the study of neural repair approaches, which involved neural differentiation of human ES cells, transplantation of human ES-derived neural cells into striatum of immunodeficient animals, and investigating long-term outcomes of graft integration, axonogenesis, projections to other anatomical areas, and synaptogenesis (Nasonkin et al., Stem Cells 2009).
Igor’s current interest is to drive human ES cells further towards neural lineage, and into specialized neuronal type (retinal cells), with further transplantation into retina, and studying potential alleviation of blindness in several genetic models of retinopathy.