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Aswathy Ammothumkandy and her family

USC Stem Cell postdoc Aswathy Ammothumkandy recognized by the American Epilepsy Society for her work with neural stem cells

USC Stem Cell postdoctoral trainee Aswathy Ammothumkandy vividly recalls when the tour guide shared the story of Dolly the cloned sheep during her ninth-grade field trip to the regional science center in her home town of Kozhikode, India. From that moment on, Ammothumkandy set her heart on a career in biotechnology. “I thought that this …

Ear exam

Study reveals common loud noises cause fluid buildup in the inner ear and suggests simple possible cure for noise-induced hearing loss

Exposure to loud noise, such as a firecracker or an ear-splitting concert, is the most common preventable cause of hearing loss. Research suggests that 12% or more of the world population is at risk for noise-induced loss of hearing. Loud sounds can cause a loss of auditory nerve cells in the inner ear, which are …

Students

California’s stem cell agency awards USC $5 million to train scientists and clinicians

USC has been awarded a $5 million training grant from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) to prepare PhD students, postdoctoral researchers, and clinical fellows for careers in stem cell research. CIRM also approved 17 other training programs at universities and clinical facilities across California, including one at USC-affiliated Children’s Hospital Los Angeles (CHLA). …

Smog

How does air pollution influence Alzheimer’s risk?

Higher exposure to air pollution is strongly associated with cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease, especially for people with certain genetic risk factors for the disease. Exactly how pollution interacts with these genes to increase dementia risk is still unknown, but clues may be found in how stem cells within the brain undergo aging, according to …

Impromptu McMahon lab meeting

USC Stem Cell: An incubator for medicine of the 21st century

Just over a decade ago, USC was a university with a few scattered stem cell biologists, and a vision for total transformation. The university was committed to designing a unique “incubator” for researchers at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and beyond to collaborate and leverage the transformative power of stem cells to develop …

mourning gecko

Aided by stem cells, a lizard regenerates a perfect tail for the first time in 250 million years

Lizards can regrow severed tails, making them the closest relative to humans that can regenerate a lost appendage. But in lieu of the original tail that includes a spinal column and nerves, the replacement structure is an imperfect cartilage tube. Now, for the first time, a USC-led study in Nature Communications describes how stem cells …

Neurons and muscle

Skeletal muscle grown in a dish offers new insight for neuromuscular diseases

Neuromuscular diseases are debilitating and mostly incurable, affecting 160 out of every 100,000 people worldwide. Disorders such as ALS and multiple sclerosis impact the function of muscles, causing muscle wastage and loss of motor function. A major hurdle in the fight against these diseases is the fact it is notoriously difficult to grow tissue in …

The coronal suture contains stem cells (green).

Study of skull birth defect takes it from the top

Contrary to the popular song, the neck bone is actually connected to one of 22 separate head bones that make up the human skull. These plate-like bones intersect at specialized joints called sutures, which normally allow the skull to expand as the brain grows, but are absent in children with a birth defect called craniosynostosis. …

Organ of Corti

USC Stem Cell scientists explore the latent regenerative potential of the inner ear

Scientists from the USC Stem Cell laboratory of Neil Segil have identified a natural barrier to the regeneration of the inner ear’s sensory cells, which are lost in hearing and balance disorders. Overcoming this barrier may be a first step in returning inner ear cells to a newborn-like state that’s primed for regeneration, as described …

Scott Fraser by Noe Montes

USC Professor Scott E. Fraser redefines impossible problems

USC Professor Scott E. Fraser is known for inventing new microscopes and other tools to observe living, developing embryos. But one of his lab’s most important pieces of technology filters coffee instead of light: it’s a restaurant-quality Espresso machine. “I wanted to make a place where people would come to steal coffee,” he said. “And …

Inner ear sensory cells (left) and skin sensory cells from a one-day-old mouse

USC Stem Cell study points to a common ancestor for cells involved in hearing and touch

The sensory cells in the inner ear and the touch receptors in the skin actually have a lot in common, according to a new study from the USC Stem Cell laboratory of Neil Segil published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences (PNAS). “There are striking similarities in the development of two …

Megan McCain and family

USC Professor Megan McCain crafts an approach to tissue engineering

Megan McCain has always liked using her hands to create things, ranging from art projects to human heart cells that grow on silicon chips. “I’ve always loved building things and doing crafts, which drew me to engineering,” said McCain, who was recently awarded tenure as an Associate Professor and the Chonette Early Career Chair in …

Bérénice Benayoun receives GSA Nathan Shock New Investigator Award

The Gerontological Society of America (GSA)—the nation’s largest interdisciplinary organization devoted to the field of aging—has chosen Assistant Professor Bérénice Benayoun of the USC Leonard Davis School of Gerontology as the 2021 recipient of the Nathan Shock New Investigator Award. The distinguished honor is given for outstanding contributions to new knowledge about aging through basic …

Unmesh Jadhav and Kimberly Gokoffski

The Baxter Foundation advances USC research on optic nerve disease and colorectal cancer

For over 60 years, the Donald E. and Delia B. Baxter Foundation has supported innovative biomedical research at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, each year granting $100,000 awards to two faculty members. This year, the Baxter Foundation awarded Kimberly Gokoffski, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Clinical Ophthalmology at the USC Roski Eye Institute, …

AcuraStem awarded $1 million Department of Defense grant to develop ALS drug candidate

AcuraStem, a patient-based drug discovery platform company developing novel therapeutics for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and neurodegenerative diseases, has received an Amyotrophic Lat-eral Sclerosis Research Program (ALSRP) Therapeutic Development Award from the Department of Defense, Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs (CDMRP) totaling $1 million. Through CDMRP’s award mechanisms and funding rec-ommendations, the ALSRP highlights innovative …

Marcella Birtele

Marcella Birtele named Choi Family Postdoctoral Fellow at USC Stem Cell

In one sense, Marcella Birtele is following in her father’s footsteps: he works as an electrician in Italy, and she studies the electrophysiology of the brain as a postdoctoral fellow in Giorgia Quadrato’s lab at the Eli and Edythe Broad Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at USC. “When I have doubts about …

Neural stem cells

Do our brains age faster than the rest of our bodies?

If you feel your brain power diminishing as you advance into middle age and beyond, blame your neural stem cells. In a new study published in Cell Stem Cell, a team led by USC Stem Cell scientist Michael Bonaguidi demonstrates that neural stem cells—the stem cells of the nervous system—age rapidly. “There is chronological aging, …

Pat Levitt (Photo courtesy of CHLA)

Chief Scientific Officer at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles appointed to CIRM Board

Pat Levitt, PhD, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles’ (CHLA) Chief Scientific Officer and Director of The Saban Research Institute, has been appointed to the board that oversees the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM). CIRM is the voter-created agency that funds stem cell research at institutions and organizations throughout the state. “Dr. Levitt will bring a …

Leonardo Morsut

USC Stem Cell scientist Leonardo Morsut awarded $2.5 million NIH grant to explore “synthetic” embryonic development

Whether in an earthworm or a human being, developmental processes are driven by complex networks of genetically-encoded signals that enable cells to take cues from each other and their environment. To begin unraveling this complexity, USC Stem Cell scientist Leonardo Morsut is designing artificial genetic programs to perturb natural signaling networks and study how this …

Xi Chen

For USC scientist Xi Chen, a chicken is more than just an egg’s way of making another egg

USC postdoctoral researcher Xi Chen knows that you have to break a few eggs in order to grow chicken stem cells. His work on maintaining embryonic stem cells (ESC) from chicken eggs provides insight into stem cell pluripotency and evolutionary developmental biology. “The choice of beginning with fertilized chicken eggs was critical to the success …

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