Dr. Ying Liu
The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
McGovern Medical School
Department of Neurosurgery and Institute of Molecular Medicine
My laboratory utilizes combined molecular and cellular approaches to pursue mechanisms of CNS development and disease. We strive for translating fundamental insights into discovery of new stem cell therapeutics for CNS regeneration and repair.
By transient overexpression of four transcription factors, OCT4, SOX2, KLF4 and C-MYC, somatic cells such as dermal fibroblasts, keratinocytes, and blood cells, can be reprogrammed to human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). Most critically, iPSCs provide autologous materials for patients, which theoretically omit the need for immune suppression. We have optimized the more clinically relevant, integration-free human iPSC generation protocol and performed directed differentiation of patient-specific iPSCs into neural stem cells, neuronal and glial progenitors, as well as mature cell types for disease modeling, transplantation studies, neural regeneration and repair, and drug screening and testing. Recently we have applied the highly efficient genome editing tool CRISPR/Cas9 system to creation of neural lineage reporters and gene corrections of patients’ iPSCs. Our long-term goal as an independent investigator is to elucidate the fundamental mechanisms of neural differentiation and repair. Using human iPSC based developmental and disease models, these data will be translated into new therapeutic strategies.
Examples of projects students might work on include: (1) Identification of optimal neural lineage progenitors and targeting chondroitin sulfate proteoglycans signaling with CRISPR in human iPSC neural grafts for spinal cord injury repair; and (2) Down syndrome disease modeling using patient-derived iPSCs and CRISPR-edited neural populations