Cell Symposia: Using Stem Cells to Model and Treat Human Disease

Speaker

Chad A. Cowan, Ph.D., Harvard University, USA
Modeling Cardiovascular and Metabolic Disease with Human Pluripotent Stem Cells

Chad A. Cowan, Ph.DOur goal is to understand how naturally occurring human genetic variation protects (or predisposes) some people to cardiovascular and metabolic disease—the leading cause of death in the world—and to use that information to develop therapies that can protect the entire population from disease. Our strategy is to identify patients, families, and cohorts with disease; to use genetic techniques such as genome-wide association studies and exome sequencing to identify novel DNA variants and genes linked to disease; to use human cell-based models and mouse models to understand how the DNA variants affect gene and protein function; and to use these mechanistic insights to begin the process of developing new therapies that will benefit patients and populations. In particular, we are interested in using human pluripotent stem cells to create human-derived tissues, containing specific DNA variants, as genetic disease models in which environmental and epigenetic influences have been minimized. We also aim to use stem cells to enable regenerative medicine, in which a patient’s own cells can be genetically cured or made resistant to disease and then transplanted back into the body as a durable treatment.

Chad Cowan received his BA and BS, with honors, from Kansas University. He received his PhD, from the University of Texas Southwestern at Dallas, garnering the Nominata award for most outstanding thesis. He subsequently completed a Damon Runyon postdoctoral fellowship with Professor Douglas Melton at Harvard University.  He was named a Stowers Medical Investigator in 2006. In 2008, he became an Assistant Professor in the Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology at Harvard University. In 2013, he was promoted to Associate Professor. He currently directs the Harvard Stem Cell Institute’s iPS Core Facility and is head of the Diabetes Disease Program.

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