Associate Dean, and Associate Professor
Crawford Hall 7th Floor and Millis Science Center Room 329A
Human Mesenchymal Stem Cells (hMSCs) are rare bone marrow-derived cells that have the potential to develop (differentiate) into a variety of skeletal cells including the cells that make bone, cartilage, fat, and connective tissue (or stroma). We have previously reported on the development of methods to isolate hMSCs from human bone marrow. We have also developed methods to induce hMSCs to divide many times in culture without differentiating into any of the various skeletal or connective tissue cells for which they have potential. Finally, we and others have developed methods to induce hMSCs to form bone, cartilage, fat or stroma right on the culture plate.
The focus of the current research in my laboratory is to identify and understand the cellular and molecular mechanisms that influence and regulate hMSC development into these various types of cells. In addition, we are conducting experiments to determine whether hMSCs have the potential to develop into other types of cells. In particular, hMSCs are being analyzed to determine if they can differentiate into a cell called a pericyte or vascular smooth muscle cell. Both of these cell types are important building blocks to the normal development of blood vessels.
In addition to being progenitors to a variety of skeletal tissue cells, hMSCs also appear to influence the development of other types of cells. In particular, hMSCs have been shown to regulate the process of hematopoiesis or blood cell formation. Recent data from my lab suggest that hMSCs may also influence the process of angiogenesis or blood vessel formation. Current experimentation in my lab is aimed at better understanding the mechanisms that explain how hMSCs affect these developmental events.