Harvard Stem Cell Institute

Progress Report: October 2018
A 'volume control' for pain
neuropathic pain
Why do people with neuropathic pain feel pain from minor touches and other normally harmless stimuli? HSCI Principal Faculty members Clifford Woolf and Zhigang He have figured out one piece of the puzzle.
  • What they did: The researchers combined a mouse model of neuropathic pain with technology that visualizes specific groups of neurons in the brain.
  • What they found: A specific type of neuron in the brain controls the extent of pain, exaggerating sensation in neuropathic pain.
  • Why it matters: The neurons could be targeted to treat neuropathic pain, possibly through drugs or brain electrical stimulation.
Healing hearts
beating heart cells
The goal of the HSCI Cardiovascular Disease Program is to develop new treatments for heart disease.  The heart has a very limited ability to regenerate on its own, so research in this program focuses on two main approaches:
  • Reprogramming other types of cells to make new heart tissue.
  • Making the heart's own cells divide so they can participate in repair.
"Although it has been postulated for over a decade that the heart has its own source of stem cells that can be used for repair, extensive data over the past five years indicate that there are no adult stem cells in the adult heart," says program leader Richard Lee. 

"Reaching that fundamental conclusion now allows us to focus on using other sources of stem cells, or the heart's own mature cells , to achieve heart regeneration."
HSCI Affiliate Faculty member Rosario Fernandez-Godino has been selected to receive the BrightFocus Foundation Award. Her research on how the complement system (a part of the immune system) contributes to the development of age-related macular degeneration holds promise for potential treatments.