Kevin Eggan, Ph.D.
Before coming to Harvard, Dr. Eggan trained with Dr. Rudolf Jaenisch in stem cell biology and mammalian genetics. As a result, he has unusually broad experience in both developing and deploying new mouse and human cellular models of disease. In his lab, he pursues two interlocking areas of investigation: the basic biology of stem cell programming, reprogramming and gene editing, as well as the application of the resulting technologies to understanding the biology of nervous system disorders. He is known for his studies of the differentiation of stem cells into the neural lineage and the reprogramming of commonly available differentiated cell types, such as fibroblasts, into either pluripotent stem cells or cells of therapeutic interest, such as spinal motor and cortical neurons. His initial translational focus has been on the motor neuron disease ALS and the associated disorder FTD, with the intent to connect genetic variants that cause these conditions with the cellular pathways they perturb. With recent advances in stem cell and reprogramming biology, his group can now produce billions of spinal motor neurons from large numbers of patients and controls. He uses this ever improving resource to develop human cell models of disease processes to be used for both mechanistic studies and for the discovery of novel therapeutic candidates.
A Decade of IPS Cell Research in ALS
It has now been roughly 10 years since we first reported production of the first motor neurons derived from patients with ALS. In the subsequent decade, methods for using these cells have ever improved, now allowing us to produce preparation of disease-relevant cells from large numbers of individuals. I will relate progress we have made in using these models to study the heterogeneity of ALS, to understand the mechanisms leading to neural degeneration, identify new biomarkers and nominate novel therapeutic targets.