Research

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Lab Members

Principle Investigator
Emanuela Gussoni received her PhD from the University of Milan, Italy and continued her postdoctoral training at Stanford University from 1990-1994 and at Boston Children's Hospital in the laboratory of Dr. Louis Kunkel from 1994-1999. To view Dr. Gussoni's publications via PubMed Click Here

Post Doc
Dr. Regina Sohn joined the lab in March 2002. She is investigating the mechanisms of vertebrate myoblast fusion. Much is known about Drosophila muscle cells fusion, but less is known for mouse or human cells. Regina is studying the role of nephrin, the vertebrate orthologue of Drosophila SNS, in vertebrate myoblast fusion.

Clinical Genetics Fellow
Dr. Natasha Frank started working in our lab in August 2002 as a Clinical Genetics Fellow. She is studying genes specifically up-regulated/downregulated in muscle SP cells, thought to be a primitive cell type in muscle, versus MP cells, thought to be more committed myogenic progenitors. She has performed these studies on human fetal muscle cells derived from 10 individuals. The genes found to be up-regulated and down-regulated in muscle SP and MP cells according to prospective function are shown below. Natasha studied the function of up-regulated expression of BMP4 in muscle-derived SP cells, which triggers the proliferation of a population of myogenic cells expressing the BMP-receptor 1A. The BMP4-antagonist Gremlin, which is upregulated in MP cells, can block this proliferation. 

Graduate Student
Melissa Wu joined the Gussoni lab in July 2006, as the first graduate student. Her research interest is in adult stem cells. She is currently working on characterizing a protein that we believe is involved in differentiation or fusion of muscle stem cells. This protein, an orphan G-protein coupled receptor, is upregulated during early fusion events. Inhibition of its mRNA results in a block of differentiation and a resulting loss of fusion in mouse myoblasts. Her studies aim to identify this protein's role in muscle stem cell differentiation or fusion, including identifying its signaling pathways. Melissa graduated from MIT with an SB in Biology, where she worked with Dr. James Sherley at MIT and Dr. Ting Wu at Harvard on immortal DNA strand mechanisms in fly ovarian germline stem cells. 

Lab Technician
Matthew Mitchell is currently working on delivery of purified populations of muscle stem cells to mice to assess engraftment. Matt is working with the cellular marker Aldehyde Dehydrogenase (ALDH). ALDH was first identified as a marker for stem/progenitor cells located in the bone marrow. Continuing on work done by Mike Molloy, Matt has isolated ALDH positive cells from human fetal muscle tissue. These cells have been used in both in vitro and in vivo (using the murine model) projects to study their place in the myogenic lineage and engraftment capabilities, respectively. 

Undergraduate Researcher
John Silva is a Harvard undergraduate working on completing his thesis in our lab. He is studying various progenitor populations to determine which populations are likely to be most effective in cell-based therapies of muscular dystrophy. These populations include cells isolated from bone marrow, as well as from skeletal muscle.

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