Investigating the effects of tumor necrosis factor on cell function & viability in Parkinson's disease using pluripotent stem cell-derived midbrain dopaminergic neurons

Stem cells are cells that can self-renew or, under the influence of appropriate signals, differentiate into mature cells, such as neurons, cardiac muscle or kidney cells. While the idea of stem cells as therapeutics to treat a variety of maladies has captured the public imagination, stem cells also offer us the opportunity to investigate basic physiological processes as well as develop pathophysiologically appropriate models of disease and platforms for drug screening. The focus of my laboratory is the generation of bona fide models of human disease using human stem cells differentiated into neurons, cardiomyocytes or kidney cells (podocytes). The idea is to use these stem cell model systems to probe for changes in cell function or survival that may be associated with, for example, inflammatory mediator-induced stress or specific genetic mutations.

At present our main research interests lie around podocyte dysfunction in Alport Syndrome-related renal failure and inflammatory mediator-related dysfunction of dopaminergic neurons in Parkinson's disease. Broadly speaking these stem cell projects are likely to utilize cell culture techniques, plate based and fluorescence imaging assays along with some simple immunocytochemistry as well as genomic and or proteomic screening. Under certain circumstances these projects may be expanded to include mass spectrometry and or high performance liquid chromatography.