Faculty Faculty 2008 Faculty 2009 Faculty 2010 Faculty 2012

Ann Kiessling, PhD

Dr. Kiessling is Associate Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School and Director of the Bedford Stem Cell Research Foundation. She holds bachelor’s degrees in nursing and chemistry, a master’s degree in organic chemistry and a doctorate in biochemistry/biophysics from Oregon State University. (download CV PDF)

Her postdoctoral research explored relationships between viruses and cancer at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and University of California, San Diego. The work in San Diego led to the controversial discovery of reverse transcriptase in normal human cells in 1979 (Kiessling & Goulian). Prior to this discovery, it had been assumed that reverse transcriptase was an enzyme found only in retroviruses. To understand the normal biologic role of reverse transcriptase, Dr. Kiessling began to study eggs and early cleaving embryos.

Dual interests in virology and reproductive biology led to research in semen transmission of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), and the creation of the first laboratory for Human In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) in Oregon in the early 1980’s. Harvard Medical School recruited Dr. Kiessling in 1985, where she continues her research today.

The need to conduct biomedical research in areas not funded by the federal government led to the incorporation of the Bedford Stem Cell Research Foundation. The Foundation’s Special Program of Assisted Reproduction (SPAR) has helped more than 80 couples affected by HIV disease have safe, healthy babies. Because of this success, more than two-dozen fertility centers throughout the country have implemented the SPAR program, allowing couples to seek care closer to home.

The techniques developed for SPAR have now been extended to other diseases of the male genitourinary tract, such as prostatitis and bladder infections. Expertise in human egg biology led Dr. Kiessling to develop the country’s first human egg donor program for stem cell research in 2000. It remains a research focus today.

Dr. Kiessling has published more than 100 scientific papers and given more than 60 lectures to audiences around the world. Her writings can be found in publications such as Nature, Lancet, Proceedings of the National Academy of Science and Connecticut Law Review, and she has been the focus of articles in The Boston Globe and Newsweek. In 2003, Dr. Kiessling wrote Human Embryonic Stem Cells: An Introduction to the Science and Therapeutic Potential, the first textbook on the controversial topic.

Faculty Faculty 2008 Faculty 2009 Faculty 2010

Steven L. Stice, PhD

Professor, GRA Eminent Scholar and Director of the Regenerative Bioscience Center at University of Georgia and CSO, Aruna Biomedical Inc.

Dr. Steven Stice has over 16 years of research and development experience in biotechnology and is a co-founder of five biotechnology companies.  He was named one of the 100 Most Influential Georgians by Georgia Trend magazine.  He produced the first cloned rabbit in 1987 and the first cloned transgenic calves in 1998 (George and Charlie).  In 1997 his group produced the first genetically modified embryonic stem cell derived pigs and cattle.  This research led to publications in Science and Nature journals, national news coverage (CBS, NBC, ABC and CNN) and the first US patents on cloning animals and cattle embryonic stem cells.  In 2001, Dr. Stice announced the first cloned animal (calf) from an animal that was dead for 48 hours.  In 2005, his stem cell group published the first work on deriving motor neurons from stem cells.  Motor neurons are damaged lost during the progression of several diseases such as ALS and spinal muscular atrophy.  Throughout his career he has published and lectured on cloning and stem cell technologies.  Prior to joining the University of Georgia, Dr. Stice was a co-founder and Chief Scientific Officer at Advanced Cell Technology, a company developing cloning and stem cell technology.

Currently, Dr. Stice is a Professor and Director of the Regenerative Bioscience Center and has a Georgia Research Alliance Eminent Scholar endowed Chair at the University of Georgia.  His research focuses on developing innovative stem cell technologies for curing diseases.  He co-founded CytoGenesis, Inc., which was later purchased by BresaGen.  Dr. Stice helped BresaGen develop three human embryonic stem cell lines approved for NIH funding.

He was named one of the top forty entrepreneurs under forty years old in Georgia (2000) and received the AGR grand president’s award for leadership and AGR Brother of the Century Award and outstanding Young Alumni Award from the University of Illinois.  University of Georgia Research Foundation named Dr. Stice inventor of the year in 2005.

Dr. Stice received a B.S. in agricultural science at the University of Illinois in 1983.  He then attended Iowa State University and completed a M.S. degree in 1985.  Next, Dr. Stice went to the University of Massachusetts in Amherst for a Ph.D. program and graduated in 1989.

University of Georgia Center for Drug Discovery

Faculty Faculty 2008 Faculty 2009 Faculty 2010 Faculty 2012

Wise Young, MD, PhD

Founding Director, Professor II, The Richard H. Shindell Chair in Neuroscience

2012 News
 New York Daily News Interview About the First Multi-Center Clinical Trials in China
At about 20 centres in China, Hong Kong and Taiwan, stem cells are injected into patients’ damaged spines to help regenerate nerves, while lithium is used to promote the growth of the nerve fibres.

Dr. Wise Young, founding director of the W.M. Keck Center for Collaborative Neuroscience and a professor at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, is recognized as one of the world’s outstanding neuroscientists. He obtained a bachelor of arts degree from Reed College, a doctorate from the University of Iowa and a medical degree from Stanford University. After a surgery internship at New York University and Bellevue Medical Center, he joined the neurosurgery department at NYU. In 1984, he became director of neurosurgery research. In 1997, as part of Rutgers’ commitment to the future, Dr. Young was recruited to establish and direct a world-class center for collaborative neuroscience.

Dr. Young was part of the team that discovered and established high-dose methylprednisolone (MP) as the first effective therapy for spinal cord injuries. This 1990 work upended concepts that spinal cord injuries were permanent, refocused research, and opened new vistas of hope. This team also played a major role in Andy Blight’s signal work on 4-aminopyridine (4-AP), which shows significant promise for increasing nerve conductivity.

Dr. Young developed the first standardized rat spinal cord injury model used worldwide for testing therapies, formed the first consortium funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to test promising therapies, and helped establish several widely accepted clinical outcome measures in spinal cord injury research.

Dr. Young founded and served as editor-in-chief of the Journal of Neurotrauma. He organized the National and International Neurotrauma Societies as forums for scientists to share discoveries and collaborate on spinal cord injury and brain research. He serves or has served on advisory committees for the NIH, the National Academy of Sciences, and NICHD, and has served on advisory boards for many spinal cord injury organizations.

Well-known as a leader in spinal cord injury research, Dr. Young has appeared on “20/20” with Barbara Walters and Christopher Reeve, “48 Hours,” “Today,” “Eye-to-Eye,” Fox News and CNN’s news magazine with Jeff Greenfield. His work has been featured in a Life magazine special edition, USA Today, and innumerable other news, talk and print presentations throughout the world. His honors include: NIH Jacob Javits Neuroscience Award (1985-1992), Wakeman Award (1991), Tall Texan of the Year Award (1997), ‘Cure’ Award (1998), Trustees Award for Excellence in Research (2001), Asian American Achievement Award (2002), Douglass Medal for work with the advancement of young women in the sciences (2003), and Elizabeth M. Boggs Award for service to the disability community (2004). In August 2001, TIME Magazine named Dr. Young as ‘America’s Best’ in the field of spinal cord injury research. In 2005 he was the first researcher elected to the Spinal Cord Injury Hall of Fame. Dr. Young was appointed to the Richard H. Schindell Chair in Neuroscience in 2006 by the Rutgers University Board of Governors.

Faculty Faculty 2008 Faculty 2009 Faculty 2012

Hans Keirstead, PhD

Reeve-Irvine Research Center
Associate Professor
Department of Anatomy & Neurobiology

Development of strategies to limit degeneration and enhance regeneration after spinal cord injury, with emphasis on human embryonic stem cells

The focus of the Keirstead laboratory is the development of strategies to limit degeneration and enhance regeneration after spinal cord injury, of both axons and myelin. The laboratory is investigating strategies to reduce or eliminate the post-traumatic enlargement of spinal cord injury sites that normally occurs after traumatic injury. The laboratory has developed an injection-based therapy that significantly decreased tissue loss if administered soon after traumatic injury. Human reagents necessary for clinical trials have been generated, and a clinical trial, focusing on ulcerative colitis, using this approach began in 2005.

The Keirstead laboratory also investigates cell transplantation therapy for spinal cord injury, and was the first lab in North America to garner federally-approved embryonic stem cells for spinal cord research. The laboratory has focused on myelin restoration following spinal cord injury, and demonstrated that oligodendrocyte progenitor transplantation therapy can restore lost function, including the ability of coordinated walking, to spinal cord injured rats. This work is the basis of a therapy that is currently being developed for clinical trials. The laboratory is generating other cell populations that may benefit chronic spinal cord injury, and also researching means to eliminate the glial scar that forms after spinal cord injury and in multiple sclerosis.

Dr. Keirstead is an Associate Professor at the Reeve-Irvine Research Center. The Canadian-born neuroscientist received his PhD from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. His PhD thesis concerned his invention of a novel method for regenerating damaged spinal cords, and formed the basis of several worldwide patents as well as the formation of a company in 1999 to bring this treatment towards clinical trials. He received the Cameron Award for the outstanding PhD thesis in Canada. Dr. Keirstead then moved to Cambridge, England, where he conducted 4 years of post-doctoral studies at the University of Cambridge furthering his studies of spinal cord injury and beginning studies of multiple sclerosis. He was awarded Canadian and British Fellowships to support this work. He received the distinct honor of election to two senior academic posts, Fellow of the Governing Body of Downing College, and Senate Member of the University of Cambridge, and was the youngest member to be elected to those positions.

In 2000, Dr. Keirstead became an Assistant Professor in the Reeve-Irvine Research Center at the University of California. Irvine and directs a large team investigating the cellular biology and treatment of spinal cord trauma, research that also has significance for multiple sclerosis and other diseases of the nervous system. In order to bring his treatments to clinical trials, he has founded or partnered with biotechnology companies to fund and conduct pre-clinical and clinical development. Hans was recently awarded the Distinguished Assistant Professor of UCI Award, the UCI Academic Senate’s highest honor, as well as the UCI Innovation Award.

UCIrvine Reeve-Irvine Research Center

University of California at Irvine

Faculty Faculty 2008 Faculty 2009

Jose Cibelli, DVM, PhD

Dr. Cibelli currently holds the position of Professor of Animal Biotechnology at Michigan State University. He heads the Cellular Reprogramming Laboratory in the Departments of Animal Science and Physiology. From October 1999 until December 2002 he was the vice president for research of Advanced Cell Technology, a stem cell company in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Dr. Cibelli is one of the pioneers in the area of cloning with transgenic somatic cells for the production of animals and embryonic stem cells. Dr. Cibelli together with his colleagues, were responsible for the generation of the world’s first transgenic cloned calves, the first embryonic stem cells by nuclear transfer and the first embryonic stem cells by parthenogenesis in primates. Dr. Cibelli pioneered nuclear transfer and parthenogenesis of human eggs in 2001 in Massachusetts, following the development of stringent ethical standards for the research. This was followed by publications in Science, Nature Biotechnology, Nature Medicine, PNAS and JAMA. He has testified about nuclear transfer and stem cells in public forums sponsored by the US Food and Drug administration, the USA National Academy of Sciences, Canadian House of Commons, the USA Department of Agriculture and the United Nations Commission for Human Rights.

Dr. Cibelli also serves as the Associate Scientific Director of the ‘Program for Cell Therapy and Regenerative Medicine of Andalucía’, Seville, Spain; the International Committee of the ‘International Stem Cell Research Society’, the Ethics Committee of the ‘American Society of Gene Therapy’ and the Scientific and Medical Accountability Standards Working Group of the ‘California Institute for Regenerative Medicine’.

Faculty Faculty 2008

Naomi Kleitman, PhD

Dr. Naomi Kleitman joined NINDS in 2001 as a Program Director in Repair and Plasticity. Her interest is in spinal cord injury research and the development of successful strategies for CNS repair and restoration of function. Translation of fundamental research on neural repair and axonal growth to clinical studies that apply these basic principles is a major goal. Dr. Kleitman received a Ph.D. in neuroscience at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign followed by post-doctoral work at Washington University, St. Louis. She was on the faculty of the University of Miami School of Medicine in The Miami Project to Cure Paralysis for 12 years, studying mechanisms of axonal regeneration in tissue culture and the development of populations of adult rodent and human Schwann cells for transplantation in PNS and CNS injury sites. She also served as the Scientific Liaison for the Miami Project, encouraging interaction between clinicians, rehabilitation and basic researchers, as well as informing the public, patient groups, and the media about progress in spinal cord injury research.

Faculty Faculty 2008 Faculty 2009

Scott Whittemore, PhD

Spinal Cord Injury causes many changes at the molecular level that damage or destroy key components of the nervous system that carry signals to and from the brain – including neurons, axons and the myelin coating that protects the nervous system much like the insulation around an electrical cord, as well as the vascular infrastructure that carries oxygen to these tissues.

The Molecular Neurobiology Laboratory focuses on strategies to replace lost neurons, help axons regenerate, and regeneration of the myelin coating around damaged or regenerating axons. Using undifferentiated precursor cells, gene therapies, and transplanted neurons, the lab seeks to understand the development of these key components of the vascular and nervous system at the molecular and genetic level in order to protect them from damage and/or promote their regeneration.

The general research focus of my laboratory is to utilize molecular and cellular biological techniques to address repair in spinal cord injury (SCI). These studies are usually initiated in vitro and successful approaches then taken into whole animal experiments. When designing strategies to facilitate functional restoration in SCI, three issues need to be considered: 1) replacement of lost neurons, 2) remyelination of de-myelinated and/or regenerating axons, and 3) inducing axotomized descending motor and ascending sensory axons to regenerate. We are utilizing multiple strategies to examine all three issues.

Neuronal replacement requires transplantation of exogenous neurons, as CNS neurons do not regenerate. Similarly, injury-induced de-myelination is secondary to a loss of intrinsic oligodendrocytes. Our approach to re-myelination is to transplant oligodendrocyte precursors into the demyelinated area. We are using CNS-derived stem cells as a source for both neurons and oligodendrocytes. Ongoing experiments in vitro are using retroviral vectors to infect the undifferentiated precursor cells with transcription factors that direct either neuronal or oligodendrocytic differentiation. Additionally, we isolate neuronal-restricted and glial-restricted populations of precursor cells. These cells are then engrafted into specific SCI models that deplete functionally discrete populations of neurons or endogenous oligodendrocytes in specific ventral motor pathways. We utilize a battery of behavioral and electrophysiological analyses to both characterize the initial deficits and determine the degree to which functional recovery is observed.

Our attempts to engender axotomized supraspinal, propriospinal, and sensory axons to regenerate takes a two-fold approach. We again use undifferentiated stem cells and genetically engineer them to express specific neurotrophic factors and/or cell surface molecules that facilitate regeneration by providing trophic support or a permissive substrate for regeneration. In these studies, we induce the stem cells towards an astrocytic phenotype in vivo, as early differentiating astrocytes are permissive for axonal outgrowth. Concomitant with the engraftment of these cells into the injured spinal cord, we use adenoviral or lentiviral vectors to deliver specific neurotrophic molecules at specific times post-injury to the cell bodies in the brainstem and/or into the spinal cord caudal to the injury site. This should enhance the regenerative capacity of the axotomized neurons and coax the regenerating fibers to leave the graft and enter the distal cord, respectively. In the second approach, we are characterizing in the injured spinal cord and brain the expression of the eph family of receptor tyrosine kinases and their ligands the ephrins. These molecules mediate repulsive interactions between cells that express receptor and ligand. We hypothesize that the expression of ephs and ephrins in the injured spinal cord may contribute to the non-permissive environment for regeneration. We have devised a number of reagents that can block the function of these molecules and are examining their effects on regeneration of specific ascending and descending fiber populations.

We recognize that no single strategy will be by itself effective in eliciting optimal regeneration in SCI. Our ultimate goal is to combine those individual strategies of ours and our colleagues here in the Department of Neurological Surgery that are effective to design interventive approaches that will result in functionally significant improvements after SCI.