Reproductive, Stem Cell and Perinatal Biology
Faculty & Staff
Dr. Virginia D. Winn joined the faculty in the summer of 2014 coming from University of Colorado School of Medicine. Her research program focuses on improving the health of mothers and their offspring. Central to this goal are her investigations of human placental development and the obstetrical complications associated with placental dysfunction. Current studies focus predominately on the pregnancy-specific condition known as preeclampsia, characterized by new onset hypertension and proteinuria in the second half of pregnancy. The placenta is the inciting organ for this condition as once the placenta delivers the disease resolves. Investigations include determining the role of a number of placental expressed preeclampsia-associated genes (Siglec-6, leptin and PAPP-A2) on trophoblast differentiation and invasion, which is often impaired in placentas of pregnancies complicated by preeclampsia. The laboratory also carries out studies to determine the role of endothelial progenitor cells in preeclampsia pathogenesis as well as determine biomarkers of disease. A second line of investigation focuses on determining the impact of pregnancy on the maternal immune system and dissecting the mechanism by which pregnancy ameliorates rheumatoid arthritis. These studies also address the mechanisms that allow for maternal-fetal tolerance. A recent line of investigation for Dr. Winn is developing methods to assess human placental function during an ongoing pregnancy through assessment of placental exosomes in the maternal blood. Learn more about Winn Lab here.
Dr. Bertha Chen’s research examines the molecular causes of urinary incontinence and pelvic floor dysfunction. Recognizing that urinary incontinence linked to demise of smooth muscle sphincter function, she is investigating the potential use of stem cell regeneration to restore muscle capacity.
Dr. Roger Pedersen received degrees in biology from Stanford University (A.B, 1965) and Yale University (Ph.D., 1970) and did postdoctoral work at Johns Hopkins University. In 1971, he joined the University of California, San Francisco, where he studied developmental potency and cell fate in mammalian embryos. He served for 9 years as Director of the UCSF In Vitro Fertilization Laboratory (1992-2001). In 2001 Dr. Pedersen moved to the University of Cambridge, where he continued his research on human embryonic stem cells as Professor of Regenerative Medicine. The Cambridge Stem Cell Institute, which he co-founded, became the leading stem cell research center in the UK and Europe.
From 2008 to 2011, Dr. Pedersen led The Anne McLaren Laboratory for Regenerative Medicine located at Addenbrooke’s Hospital. Dr. Pedersen’s Cambridge lab made huge strides in understanding the growth factor signaling pathways involved in maintaining human embryonic stem cell pluripotency and inducing their differentiation. These insights led to the lab’s co-discovery of a novel type of pluripotent stem cell from the late epiblast layer of mouse and rat embryos, which they named “epiblast stem cells”. In recent years, the lab has focused on differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) into mesodermal cell types with potential applications in drug discovery, toxicity testing and cell-based therapies. Most recently this culminated in functional studies of hPSCs transplanted into gastrula stage mouse embryos to validate their developmental capacity in an organized tissue context.
Dr. Pedersen’s findings are important for the field of regenerative medicine because they provide compelling evidence for the functional potential of human pluripotent stem cells, both in vivo and as in vitro models of human cell biology. In 2018 Dr. Pedersen moved to the Stanford School of Medicine Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, where he continues his research on differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells into clinically relevant tissues.
Dr. Vittorio Sebastiano joined the faculty in the fall of 2014. The thread of Ariadne that connects germ cells, preimplantation development and pluripotent stem cells is the focus of research in the Sebastiano Lab. The zygote originates from the fusion of two highly specialized germ cells (the sperm and the oocyte) and in a few days develops into a blastocyst with a pluripotent cell population (the inner cell mass). These cells diverge from the extraembryonic cells of the trophoectoderm (will form the placenta) and can give rise to embryonic stem cells, in which a perpetual pluripotent and undifferentiated state is maintained. The long-term goals of the Sebastiano Lab include: 1) Understanding the biology of germ cells and a their ability to sustain early phases of preimplantation development; 2) Understanding the mechanisms that regulate very early cell fate decisions in human embryos and 3) Understanding the biology of Pluripotent Stem Cells and the mechanisms that lead to their formation also in the context of iPSCs derivation. Learn more about Sebastiano Lab here.
- Dr. Bo Yu, MD, MS is an Assistant Professor in the Division of REI, Department of OBGYN. Dr. Yu received a master’s degree in Nutrition from Clemson University before starting her medical career. After graduating from University of Michigan Medical School with Distinction in Research, she completed her residency in OBGYN at Columbia University and subsequent REI fellowship at the NIH. Dr. Yu received research training through the NIH-funded Reproductive Scientist Development Program (RSDP). Prior to joining Stanford, she was an Assistant Professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and University of Washington. Her clinical interests include female infertility, assisted reproductive technologies, and oncofertility. Learn more about Bo Yu's lab here.