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Three USC researchers win $4.3 million in awards from California’s stem cell agency

Three scientists from Keck Medicine of USC have won grants exceeding $4.3 million from the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine (CIRM) for research that includes creating a temporary liver for patients, finding novel ways to treat immune disorders and blood diseases, and developing new animal models for heart failure, diabetes and neurodegenerative diseases. The grants, …

Confocal microscopy image of an adult zebrafish head with neural crest-derived cells in red. The Crump lab has used single-cell sequencing to understand how these cells build and repair the head skeleton, with implications for understanding human craniofacial birth defects and improving repair of skeletal tissues. (Image by Hung-Jhen Chen/Crump Lab)

A crowning achievement in understanding head development

Cranial neural crests cells, or CNCCs, contribute to many more body parts than their humble name suggests. These remarkable stem cells not only form most of the skull and facial skeleton in all vertebrates ranging from fish to humans, but also can generate everything from gills to the cornea. To understand this versatility, scientists from …

Image courtesy of the Ostrow School of Dentistry of USC

USC collaboration helps FaceBase reach 1,000-dataset milestone

The data repository allows craniofacial scientists to share data, which could ultimately lead to improved care for patients with craniofacial developmental disorders. Rapid technological development in the past decade has allowed scientists to generate more data than ever before. At the same time, increased calls for transparency, reproducibility and data sharing in the scientific community …

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). …

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. …

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 …

Robert E. Maxson

USC celebrates Robert E. Maxson’s lifetime of achievement and adventure

USC Emeritus Professor Robert E. Maxson has an understated explanation for why he’s flown so many planes, sailed so many boats, skied so many mountains, played so many guitars, taken so many trips to Antarctica, and studied so many different aspects of developmental biology. “I’m drawn to things that take all my attention, and things …

Pituitary fish

Flaws emerge in modeling human genetic diseases in animals

My lab, based at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, uses zebrafish to model human birth defects affecting the face. When I tell people this, they are often skeptical that fish biology has any relevance to human health. But zebrafish have backbones like us, contain by and large the same types of …

Pituitary fish

Pituitary puzzle gets a new piece, revising evolutionary history

Insights into century-old controversy about key gland’s development arise from research led by the Keck School of Medicine of USC A new USC-led study suggests a change to the developmental — and evolutionary — story of the pituitary gland. The pea-sized gland, nestled at the base of the brain, produces hormones that drive growth, aggression, …

California’s biggest stem cell experiment: The impact of the stem cell ballot proposition at USC

In 2008, USC broke ground on an $80 million building dedicated solely to stem cell research and regenerative medicine. The plans called for a monolithic structure clad in black marble and reflective glass, rising five stories and enclosing nearly 90,000 square feet. When it was completed, the university had a stunning new contemporary research space …

Osteophyte

When it comes to arthritic bone spurs, stem cells hurt instead of heal

The same stem cells that heal broken bones can also generate arthritic bone spurs called osteophytes, according to a new study in the Annals of Rheumatic Diseases. “Although these stem and progenitor cells promote healthy bone repair in other contexts, they are inappropriately activated to cause a pathological bony protuberance in the context of arthritis,” …

USC-led study traces the evolution of gill covers

The emergence of jaws in primitive fish allowed vertebrates to become top predators. What is less appreciated is another evolutionary innovation that may have been just as important for the success of early vertebrates: the formation of covers to protect and pump water over the gills. In a new study published in the Proceedings of …

Peter Fabian

USC Stem Cell scientist Peter Fabian wins NIH Pathway to Independence Award

As a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at USC, Peter Fabian has proven himself to be a big fish in the pool of aspiring faculty members. Only three years after joining the USC Stem Cell laboratory of Gage Crump to study craniofacial development in tiny zebrafish embryos, Fabian …

Writing

Manuscript writing course for KSOM students and postdocs

Are you a KSOM postdoc or graduate student working on a manuscript? Whether you’re staring at a blank page, or going through the umpteenth round of revisions, this free workshop will get you ready to submit your manuscript to a scientific journal. Offered via Zoom, the 4-week workshop will start on Tuesday, May 26, at …

USC brings the world’s largest stem cell conference to Los Angeles

For the first time ever, the City of Los Angeles hosted the world’s largest stem cell conference. By choosing Los Angeles as the host city for this major annual meeting, the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) acknowledged the city’s growing importance as a hub for the biosciences, as well as the world-class research …

USC Stem Cell scientist Gage Crump gives a bare bones explanation of eLife skeletal development study

How do our skeletons form during embryonic development? To approach this question, PhD student Dion Giovannone, research scientist Sandeep Paul and the USC Stem Cell laboratory of Gage Crump looked to our not-so-distant relative: the tiny, transparent zebrafish. Crump explains their latest findings, published in eLife, about how embryonic cartilage transforms into adult bone. How …

Zebrafish make waves in our understanding of a common craniofacial birth defect

Children are not as hard-headed as adults—in a very literal sense. Babies are born with soft spots and flexible joints called sutures at the junctions where various sections of their skull bones meet. If these sutures fuse prematurely, the skull cannot expand to accommodate the child’s growing brain—a serious birth defect called craniosynostosis that can …

USC Stem Cell and BCRegMed Virtual Symposium brings Canada to California

It didn’t require plane tickets to bring together scientists from USC Stem Cell in Los Angeles and BCRegMed in Vancouver. During October’s Virtual Symposium, videoconferencing technology enabled these scientists to share ideas as if they were sitting in the same conference room—even though they were more than 1,200 miles apart.

USC Stem Cell scientist D’Juan Famer named Howard Hughes Medical Institute Hanna H. Gray Fellow

A little over a year after arriving at USC, D’Juan Farmer has been awarded one of the most prestigious fellowships available to postdoctoral fellows. The Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) Hanna H. Gray Fellows Program supports early-career life scientists from groups underrepresented in the life sciences. The fellows receive up to $1.4 million in funding …

At the retreat for USC’s stem cell department, the students become the masters

Students and trainees took center stage at the annual retreat for USC’s Department of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine. They presented their latest research to the 180 stem cell scientists who gathered at the event, held at the Pala Mesa Resort in Fallbrook, California this September.

A Fox code for the face

In the developing face, how do stem cells know whether to become cartilage, bones or teeth? To begin to answer this question, scientists from the USC Stem Cell laboratory of Gage Crump tested the role of a key family of genes, called “Forkhead-domain transcription factors,” or Fox. Their findings appear in the journal Development.

Gage Crump, PhD

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