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The Galat laboratory is dedicated to the study of induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). iPSCs derived from healthy and sick individuals are a promising strategy for discovery of new genes associated with diseases, testing novel therapeutic approaches and drug development. Moreover, iPSCs can potentially be used in tissue engineering and cellular therapies. By utilizing various approaches to study iPSCs, the Galat laboratory is determined to fulfill the promise of human pluripotent stem cells. Primarily we focus on refining directed differentiation of pluripotent stem cells to mesodermal lineages such as blood cells, vascular and mesenchymal cells.
Current Research Projects
Several years ago, we introduced the idea of studying human diseases in pluripotent stem cell models. Galat was one of the first scientists to isolate cells from embryos of patients with rare genetic diseases and make stem cells from them. More recently we utilized technologies such as making disease-specific induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) from patient skin biopsies and then testing their differentiated cellular subsets in order to unveil the mechanisms that prevent the development of normal tissue and function in disease. Our active projects include Down syndrome, Smith-Magenis syndrome and several others.
Hematopoietic Stem Cells
Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) are highly sought after for cellular therapies. iPSCs can provide unlimited sources for patient-specific cells since they are able to differentiate into mature blood cells in laboratory cultures. Unfortunately, iPSC-derived HSCs have limited ability for long-term reconstitution of the blood-forming system (engraftment) after transplantation into animals. The Galat laboratory is pursuing engraftable HSCs. In particular, we investigate the role of Wnt and Nodal signaling pathways during hematopoietic differentiation and definitive specifications of HSCs.
Endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) have received increased attention for their potential in repairing ischemic tissues, enhancing blood vessels and forming heart valves. Recent studies have shown that these cells are the fundamental component of the stem cell niche with distinct propensities in branches of the different organs. We investigate the mechanisms of iPSC-EC differentiation leading to the emergence of the different types of functional vascular cells. Some of these cells are currently being tested in collaborative projects for organ engineering.
Mesenchymal Stem Cells (MSCs)
Mesenchymal cells are precursors of the building blocks of the body. Their derivatives constitute the skeleton, cartilage and core structure of the organs. They also secrete important cytokines modulating the immune response and healing processes. Since MSCs can be isolated from adult tissue, they are widely used in cellular therapies. Our laboratory has shown that MSCs with enhanced capacities can be developed from iPSCs.
Conservation of Endangered Species
Human mental and physical well-being depends on a sustainable environment. Unfortunately, with the growth of society, the ecological system is severely deteriorating. We proposed the creation of a frozen bank of iPSCs from endangered species. To date, we have collected cells from three individuals of Sumatran Rhino. These stem cells can be used in a variety of ways, including producing chimeric embryos with closely related species. Potentially, they can even be differentiated into sperm cells and oocytes to increase the number of these wonderful creatures with IVF.