“Using cell and reprogramming approaches for the study of neural degeneration”
Kevin C. Eggan, Ph.D., is Associate Professor, Harvard University, Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology. Dr. Eggan completed his bachelor’s degree in microbiology at the University of Illinois in 1996. He enrolled at the graduate school of Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1998 shortly after the cloning of Dolly the Sheep was reported in Scotland. He worked towards his Ph.D. under the guidance of genetics pioneer, Dr. Rudolf Jaenisch. During his postdoc, he conducted a collaborative study with Dr. Richard Axel, a Nobel Prize winner at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. In 2004, he moved to Harvard University and became an assistant professor of Molecular & Cellular Biology at the Stem Cell Institute in 2005. Dr. Eggan’s current research focuses on applying the knowledge gained in stem cell biology to study the mechanisms underlying amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and discover new therapeutic targets. In 2008, he reported that motor neurons derived from human embryonic stem cells are susceptible to the toxic effect of glial cells harboring an ALS mutation. He also showed that induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells generated from adult skin cells of ALS patients can be differentiated into motor neurons. In 2009, he was selected as one of 50 Howard Hughes Medical Institute Early Career Scientists who received six years of dedicated support to conduct transformative research in using both human embryonic stem cells and iPS cells in ALS study and treatment. Dr. Eggan is the recipient of high profile awards for his creativity and productivity, including the MacArthur Foundation “Genius Grant” in 2006.
“Modeling retinal disease with human iPS cells”
David M. Gamm, M.D., Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He holds the Kathryn and Latimer Murfee Chair through the Retina Research Foundation and the UW Eye Research Institute, and is also a member of the Waisman Center Stem Cell Research Program and the UW Stem Cell and Regenerative Medicine Center. Dr. Gamm earned his medical and doctoral degrees from the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor and completed his residency and pediatric ophthalmology fellowship at the University of Wisconsin. In his clinical practice, Dr. Gamm diagnoses and manages a wide range of pediatric eye and vision disorders, including inherited retinal diseases; however, the majority of his effort is directed toward basic and translational retinal stem cell research. The aims of his laboratory are 1) to investigate the cellular and molecular events that occur during human retinal differentiation and 2) to generate cells for use in retinal disease modeling and cell-based rescue or replacement therapies. To meet these goals, they utilize a variety of human cell types, including ES and iPS cells, which have the capacity to model retinal development and disease, as well as to delineate the genetic “checkpoints” necessary to produce particular retinal cell types. By understanding the behavior of these cell types in vitro and in vivo, they hope to optimize strategies to delay or reverse the effects of blinding disorders such as retinitis pigmentosa and age-related macular degeneration.
“Embryonic stem cells for retinal repair: Results from transplants in mice, rats, and non-human primates”
Thomas A. Reh, Ph.D. is a professor at the University of Washington-Seattle. He received his B.S. in Biochemistry from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana in 1977 and his Ph.D. in Neuroscience from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1981. His laboratory is focused on the development and regeneration of the retina. Some key findings form his group include the description of an intrinsic “clock” for competency to generate specific fates in the retinal stem/progenitors; the establishment of in vitro conditions for neural stem/progenitors that led to identify factors that regulate both the proliferation of the cells and their differentiation into specific cell fates; the identification of EGF and the related EGFR ligand, TGF-alpha, as mitogens for CNS stem/progenitor cells; and the cloning of the first achaete scute homolog in the chick, Cash1/Ascl1 and study of its function during retinal neurogenesis and on the regulation of the Notch pathway. Dr. Reh’s studies of retinal development have been complemented by parallel research in retinal regeneration. He has developed methods for the use of human embryonic stem cells in the repair of retinal degenerations. Having developed the capacity to generate large numbers of human retinal progenitors and retinal neurons in vitro, he is investigating their ability to replace lost photoreceptors in mouse models of photoreceptor degeneration.
Sally Temple, Ph.D., is the co-founder and scientific director of the Neural Stem Cell Institute, Rensselaer, NY. Dr. Temple leads a team of 30 researchers focused on using neural stem cells to develop therapies for eye, brain and spinal cord disorders.
“Human RPE stem cells, normal and pathological lineages”
A native of York, England, Temple received her undergraduate degree at Cambridge University, Cambridge UK, her PhD in optic nerve development from University College London, UK and completed her postdoctoral studies on spinal cord studies at Columbia University, NY USA. In 1989, Dr. Temple discovered that the embryonic mammalian brain contained a rare, multipotent stem-like cell that could be extracted and grown in tissue culture. Since then she has continued to make pioneering contributions to the field of stem cell research, focusing on the question of how central nervous system (CNS) stem cells generate diverse progeny. She has identified factors intrinsic to these cells, as well as external signaling molecules from the niche that participate in their maintenance and differentiation. Recently, she helped identify a new, accessible adult CNS cell in the human retinal pigment epithelium, which offers the possibility of developing therapeutics for retinal disease and other CNS neurodegenerative diseases. Sally Temple was the 2008 Sayer Vision Research Lecturer.