A chemical approach to controlling cell fate

Published on March 5, 2014   31 min
Hello. My name is Sheng Ding. In my lecture today, I will discuss with you our approach of discovering and using small molecules to control and study stem cell fate and functions.
First, let me tell you our thinking on therapeutic strategies toward regenerative medicine. Certainly, we all know cell-based therapy, which is about transplanting the right type of cells in sufficient quantity and where they are needed. However, this approach has a number of limitations. Typically, the right donor cells need to be identified for immune compatibility reasons. The recipient often needs to be conditioned before receiving the transplant. And often the cell transplantation is invasive and may not be effective. Given our understanding of stem cell biology, improved approaches have been developed, especially by using small molecules in cell cultures to direct cells through vivo isolation, in vitro differentiation, or reprogramming, as well as our ex vivo maintenance, expansion, or activation for enhanced in vivo activity. On the other hand, we do know that pretty much in every different organ, there are reserved stem in the progenitor cells which normally function to intend tissue homeostasis, but also to respond to disease and injury, to regenerate to a small degree. This is because the regeneration signal is typically not strong or robust enough. Therefore, an alternative and perhaps more attractive approach for regenerative medicine would be developing the conventional small molecule drugs or biologics that can be taken by patients in more convenient ways. And those molecules can act in a tissue-specific manner to modulate patient's own cells to repair and regenerate through various mechanisms including cell activation, expansion, differentiation, or even in situ reprogramming.