Program 1: Stem Cells and Cell-Based Therapy

Derivation, maintenance, differentiation, and regenerative and trophic activities of stem cells.
Theme 1: Adult Stem Cell-Based Therapy for Skeletal Tissues
Sub-Project SC.1.1: JIANG, Yangzi (CUHK) and ONG, Michael Tim-Yun (CUHK)

The Jiang laboratory is involved in creating tissue regeneration strategies for the musculoskeletal system, especially bone and cartilage. Her previous work has identified and characterized the stem/progenitor cells in cartilage and signaling pathways in osteoarthritis, information that has been applied to instruct the production of stem cell-based functional tissue replacements for clinical use, including the repair of osteochondral, classified as Class III Therapeutics in China. Recent work has focused on NGF mediated signaling changes in osteoarthritis and the role of tissue-specific stem cells.

Theme 2: Stem Cell-Based Nerve Repair and Regeneration
Sub-Project SC.2.1: FALK, Anna (KI)

Taking the next step towards personalized medicine, Dr. Falk has established a world class iPSC facility, allowing for patient-derived iPSC derivation for disease modeling, ex-vivo gene editing and as an ethically clean source of defined pluripotent stem cells. Importantly Dr. Falk derived a stable intermediate between pluripotent stem cells and neurons, that can be cultured long-term without losing the ability to differentiate to neurons and glia, so called NeuroEpithelial Stem (NES). In her research, Dr. Falk successfully used NES cells in pre-clinical transplantations into spinal cord injured mice, which resulted in functional recovery of hind limb motor function in addition to maturation and integration of transplanted neurons into the circuitry. Dr. Falk will provide defined pluripotent stem cells and NES cells to the project, she will help to establish new patient-derived lines and develop and standardize the technology necessary for clinical studies.

Theme 2: Stem Cell-Based Nerve Repair and Regeneration
Sub-Project SC.2.2: LU, Gang (CUHK)

The laboratory is interested in neural regeneration and translational research, stem cell biology, including maintenance of pluripotency and gene editing of reprogrammed iPSCs, mechanisms governing neurite outgrowth, gait-based performance analysis of neurological dysfunction and deficits, development of cell therapeutic strategies for clinical application, and innovative technologies for disease diagnosis, e.g., biomarkers for neurological diseases

Theme 2: Stem Cell-Based Nerve Repair and Regeneration
Sub-Project SC.2.3: CHAN, Woody (CUHK)

The Chan laboratory has a long research history on the early development of the central and enteric nervous systems. More recent efforts are devoted to the study of the migration and differentiation of neural crest stem cells and Schwann cell precursors derived from iPSCs. Specifically, the potential application of neural crest-like Schwann cell precursors for the repair of peripheral nerve injuries is being studied, focusing on the genetic and epigenetic controls of cellular migration, proliferation and differentiation.

Theme 2: Stem Cell-Based Nerve Repair and Regeneration
Sub-Project SC.2.4: GÖRITZ, Christian (KI)

Research in the laboratory of Dr. Göritz has been focusing on the endogenous repair mechanisms and the limitations of repair in the central nervous system (CNS). He discovered a small subset of perivascular cells as the cellular origin of fibrotic tissue and demonstrated perivascular-derived fibrosis as important obstacle for CNS regeneration. Fibrotic tissue formation occurs after different kind of lesions and can impair functional implantation of cell grafts and biomaterials. To overcome the limitations by fibrotic tissue formation Dr. Göritz will develop an approach allowing the direct reprogramming of fibrotic cells into cells lost due to injury or disease. His project will provide novel mechanistic insights into fibrotic scarring, identify reprogramming factors that allow the conversion of scar forming fibroblasts into remyelinating oligodendrocytes and provide a potential therapeutic strategy to modulate scar tissue formation and promote axonal regeneration, myelination and functional recovery after spinal cord injury. Importantly, the project will facilitate intensive cross collaboration, addressing an aspect (scar formation) that is relevant for the success of biomaterial and cell transplantation approaches.

Theme 2: Stem Cell-Based Nerve Repair and Regeneration
Sub-Project SC.2.5: FRISÉN, Jonas (KI) and LLORENS-BOBADILLA, Enric

Dr. Frisén is a world-leading expert in the fields of neural stem cells, neurogenesis and regeneration. He has identified neural stem cell in the adult spinal cord, characterized their function after spinal cord injury and devised a strategy for how they can be modulated to promote some recovery in mice. He has also unveiled the role of pericytes in the formation of fibrotic scar tissue after CNS injury and how astrocytes can take on neural stem cell properties and replace neurons after stroke. He has, furthermore, devised a method for the analysis of cell generation in humans that takes advantage of the integration of 14C from nuclear bomb tests. This has enabled his group to map the generation of for example neurons and oligodendrocytes in the adult human brain in health and disease. In the currently proposed project, he will characterize spinal cord stem cells by single cell genomics to search for latent neurogenic programs that can be activated to promote the replacement of neurons that are lost after spinal cord injury.