Regenerative Biology is the Morgridge Institute’s inaugural platform for propelling stem cell use into standard medicine to advance therapeutic procedures and improve human health. Regenerative Biology is made up of four distinct groups: the Thomson Lab, the Newmark Lab, the Stewart Bioinformatics Group and the Vereide Group.
The Thomson Lab is made up of researchers focused on understanding how a pluripotent stem cell can maintain or change identity, how a pluripotent stem cell chooses between self-renewal and the initial decision to differentiate, how a differentiated cell with limited developmental potential can be reprogrammed to a pluripotent stem cell, and what the timing mechanisms are behind differences in mammalian gestation. Through its research, the Thomson Lab strives to develop stem cell based therapies for wide scale use as treatment for numerous diseases, from cancer to retinal degenerative diseases causing blindness.
In the Newmark Lab, the tools of molecular cell biology and functional genomics are utilized to address several major biological problems using planarians, a type of flatworm with extraordinary regenerative capabilities, as a model. Researchers in the Newmark Lab seek to understand how somatic stem cells maintained in the planarian adopt specific fates, how it is determined which cells replace which elements of missing parts, and how those newly differentiated cells integrate with existing tissues and organs. Their research also endeavors to pinpoint the mechanisms by which germ cells are specified and how physiological and environmental signals regulate their proper differentiation and seeks to shed light on the biology behind schistosomiasis, a major neglected tropical disease.
One of the major strengths of the Regenerative Biology Unit is the Stewart Computational Biology Group, as funding for such a group is generally not available through standard NIH grants. Working closely with wet lab scientists, the Stewart Bioinformatics Group designs experiments using high-density microarrays, Illumina next-generation sequencing, and other methods for studying gene regulation in embryonic stem cells, induced pluripotent stem cells, and their derivatives. This group employs an impressive array of expertise in computer science, biology, mathematics and statistics and provides a critical tool which supports all of the scientific projects in Regenerative Biology.
The Vereide Group specializes in understanding the mechanisms by which stem and progenitor cells self-renew and give rise to complex tissues. They seek to apply this knowledge to find meaningful solutions for disease and degeneration, in particular, diseases of the blood or blood vessels. The results of their work have promising potential to tackle such problems as cardiovascular diseases, the leading cause of death both nationally and globally, and to lead to advancements in the developing field of organogenesis.