Rick I Cohen is the Director of the Stem Cell Training Course and Research Associate in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Rutgers University in Piscataway, NJ. Over the past 8+ years he has been instrumental in providing cell based materials and hands-on training to participants from both academia and industry. In the past, he directed the Rutgers Stem Cell Core Facility, and has trained the first generation of T32 multi-institutional stem cell trainees. He has worked with Peprotech in Rocky Hill, NJ to develop several commercialized stem cell media and related products. He plans to continue his efforts to offer engineered cellular solutions to answer questions about cellular reprogramming and differentiation to needed cell types.
One of the on-going projects in Dr. Cohen's lab examines if Dopaminergic Neuron and Cardiogenic differentiation of IPSCs be optimized using small molecules. For the dopaminergic differentiation project, his lab is collaborating with Jared Sterneckert from the Center for Regenerative Therapies in Dresden, Germany and PeproTech to determine the efficacy of a two step protocol to generate floor plate neuro-epithelia and then direct these cells into dopaminergic neurons as stimulated by small molecules or growth factors in low oxygen tension. The aim of this study is to determine the optimized and scalable method to produce functional dopaminergic neurons for studies in Parkinson's Disease. For cardiomyocyte differentiation, his lab is reproducing and harmonizing recent publications using a simplified serial combination of small molecules to inhibit GSK3-beta pathway followed by inhibition of the Wnt signaling pathway. The final focus of this project is to seed the cardiomyocytes or their progenitors on a bio-compatible and transplantable scaffold in order to create a cardiac patch capable of restoring function to damaged myocardium.