Bachelor of Arts, Cambridge University, Natural Sciences (Chemistry) (2007)
Doctor of Philosophy, Harvard University (2012)
Gerald Crabtree, Postdoctoral Faculty Sponsor
The mammalian nervous system comprises many distinct neuronal subtypes, each with its own phenotype and differential sensitivity to degenerative disease. Although specific neuronal types can be isolated from rodent embryos or engineered from stem cells for translational studies, transcription factor-mediated reprogramming might provide a more direct route to their generation. Here we report that the forced expression of select transcription factors is sufficient to convert mouse and human fibroblasts into induced motor neurons (iMNs). iMNs displayed a morphology, gene expression signature, electrophysiology, synaptic functionality, in vivo engraftment capacity, and sensitivity to degenerative stimuli similar to those of embryo-derived motor neurons. We show that the converting fibroblasts do not transit through a proliferative neural progenitor state, and thus form bona fide motor neurons via a route distinct from embryonic development. Our findings demonstrate that fibroblasts can be converted directly into a specific differentiated and functional neural subtype, the spinal motor neuron.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.stem.2011.07.014
View details for Web of Science ID 000295024200008
View details for PubMedID 21852222
The combined activity of three transcription factors can reprogram adult cells into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). However, the transgenic methods used for delivering reprogramming factors have raised concerns regarding the future utility of the resulting stem cells. These uncertainties could be overcome if each transgenic factor were replaced with a small molecule that either directly activated its expression from the somatic genome or in some way compensated for its activity. To this end, we have used high-content chemical screening to identify small molecules that can replace Sox2 in reprogramming. We show that one of these molecules functions in reprogramming by inhibiting Tgf-beta signaling in a stable and trapped intermediate cell type that forms during the process. We find that this inhibition promotes the completion of reprogramming through induction of the transcription factor Nanog.
View details for DOI 10.1016/j.stem.2009.09.012
View details for Web of Science ID 000272019500011
View details for PubMedID 19818703