Waisman Center Stem Cell Research Program

 stem-cell cultures in Su-Chun Zhang's research lab

The Waisman Center's Stem Cell Research Program is committed to exploring the therapeutic potential of stem cells with the ultimate goal of developing innovative approaches to treating neurodegenerative diseases and developmental disabilities.

Stem cells are undifferentiated “master cells” with the ability to differentiate into any of the body’s cell types. Researchers at the Waisman Center utilize stem cells to advance knowledge about brain development and to identify new treatments and therapies for many complex conditions.

One area of research focuses on neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease, Alexander disease and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), which are characterized by damage to the central nervous system and decline in function. It was once thought that when nerve cells were destroyed, there was no hope for recovery. Scientists now believe the brain is much more “plastic” than previously imagined and they hope to repair or replace damaged cells.

Research focuses on developmental disabilities, such as Down syndrome, fragile X syndrome, and Rett syndrome. Disorder-specific stem cells are used to gain insight into the specific disruptions in brain development that may occur in these disabilities. We also have stem cell research programs dedicated to human retinal development and regenerative therapies for hearing loss and retinal degenerative diseases.