AUG 30, 2016 08:00 AM PDT

Human pluripotent stem cells for the study of enteric neuropathies

  • PhD candidate, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and Weill Cornell Medicine
      Faranak Fattahi has been a graduate student in the laboratory of Dr. Lorenz Studer at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. During her doctoral studies, she focused on development of new strategies to derive lineages of the peripheral nervous system (PNS) from human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) and demonstrated their potential for disease modeling, drug discovery, and regenerative medicine. Upon completion of her graduate training, she will join the University of California, San Francisco as a Sandler Faculty Fellow to launch her research program on the application of hPSCs for the study of the human PNS in health and disease.

    The human enteric nervous system (ENS) is derived from the neural crest and represents a complex network of ~500 million neurons with dozens of distinct neurotransmitter and hormone subtypes essential for gastro-intestinal (GI) activities. Despite the significance of the human ENS and its involvement in a wide range of GI disorder, there is very little known about its biology due to the lack of accessible tissue. Directed differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) offers and alternative approach for the derivation of distinct, functional cell types that can be utilized in a broad range of basic and translational applications. We have recently succeeded in derivation of the ENS lineages from hPSCs and applied them for cell therapy and drug discovery in Hirschsprung disease, which is the most common developmental disorder of the ENS. These studies set the stage for future investigations of the human ENS biology and a better understanding of disease mechanisms and advancement of therapeutic interventions for enteric neuropathies.

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