Our research is focused on human cardiomyocytes derived from human pluripotent stem cells, which hold promise for cardiac cell therapy, disease modeling, drug discovery, and the study of developmental biology. We are also collaborating with investigators at Georgia Tech, Emory University, and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, exploring the application of nanotechnology and tissue engineering in stem cell research. 

Highlights of Recent Research

 

A novel role of LGR5 in cardiomyocyte and endothelial cell differentiation from human pluripotent stem cells

 

Understanding molecules involved in the differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) into cardiomyocytes and endothelial cells is important in advancing hPSCs for cell therapy and drug testing.  In a study published in Stem Cell Reports, we have demonstrated that LGR5 (a leucine-rich repeat-containing G-protein-coupled receptor) plays a critical role in cardiomyocyte and endothelial cell differentiation from hPSCs.  Expression of LGR5 is transiently upregulated during the early stage of cardiomyocyte differentiation, and knockdown of LGR5 results in reduced cardiomyocyte differentiation but increased endothelial differentiation.

To read more, please see

Downregulation of LGR5 expression inhibits cardiomyocyte differentiation and potentiates endothelial differentiation from human pluripotent stem cells. August, 2017. Stem Cell Reports. 9:513-527.

Blood vessels and cardiac muscle cells off the shelf. August, 2017. Lab Land the Emory Health Science Blog.

 

 

Cardiac disease model in a dish using human induced pluripotent stem cells

 

Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) derived from patient’s somatic cells could present an auspicious platform for investigating precision medicine and drug discovery. In a study published in Disease Models & Mechanisms, we demonstrated that clinically observed drug responses can be recapitulated in iPSC-cardiomyocytes derived from an individual with catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia.

To read more, please see:

A stem cell model of catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia recapitulates patient-specific drug responses. September, 2016. Dis Model Mech. 9:927-939.

Cardiac 'disease in a dish' models advance arrhythmia research. September, 2016.  Emory News Center.

Stem cell stories that caught our eye: improving heart care, fixing sickle cell disease, stem cells & sugar. September, 2016. The Stem Cellar  ̶  The Official Blog of CIRM, California's Stem Cell Agency.

 

 

A novel nanotechnology tool for quality control of stem cell products

 

Derivatives from human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) have great potential for regenerative medicine; however, residual stem cells in final cell products could be tumorigenic. To ensure the safety of stem cell-based therapies, we have established a new nanotechnology to detect residual stem cells in stem cell products at the sensitivity of several thousand-fold higher compared with that of current assays. The results were published in Biomaterials.

To read more, please see:

Novel surface-enhanced Raman scattering-based assays for ultra-sensitive detection of human pluripotent stem cells. October, 2016. Biomaterials. 105:66-76.

Stay out, stray stem cells. August, 2016. Lab Land the Emory Health Science Blog.

Better, faster quality control for stem cell-based therapies. August, 2016. The Stem Cellar  ̶  The Official Blog of CIRM, California's Stem Cell Agency.

Using Raman spectroscopy to identify cell types. December, 2016. The Scientist.

 

 

Efficient generation of cardiac muscle cells from human pluripotent stem cells using simulated microgravity and 3D culture

 

Cardiac muscle cells derived from human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) could provide an unlimited supply of cells to treat heart diseases in children or adults.  In a study published in Scientific Reports, we found that simulated microgravity and suspension culture of 3D cardiac tissue constructs can increase the efficiency in generating functional cardiac muscle cells from hPSCs.

To read more, please see:

Simulated microgravity and 3D culture enhance induction, viability, proliferation and differentiation of cardiac progenitors from human pluripotent stem cells. August, 2016. Sci Rep. 6:30956.

Microgravity means more cardiac muscle cells. August, 2016. Lab Land the Emory Health Science Blog.

Pure of heart: How microgravity is improving cardiac cell quality. November, 2017. Upward, magazine of the ISS National Lab


Current Members


Chunhui Xu, PhD, Associate Professor

Email: chunhui.xu@emory.edu; Tel:404-727-7774; Faculty page

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rajneesh Jha, PhD, Research Associate

Email: rajneesh.jha@emory.edu; Tel: 404-727-7129; ResearchGate; LinkedIn

I received my PhD in Biological Sciences from Birla Institute of Technology and Sciences, Pilani, and National Institute of Pathology-ICMR, India. I have gained significant training in stem cell cardiac tissue engineering and expertise in handling human pluripotent stem cell culture, differentiation and characterization of cardiomyocytes using different cellular, molecular and electrophysiological techniques.  My research interests are focused on regulation of cell signaling pathways during the differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells to cardiomyocytes with particular interest to subtype specification and maturation.

 

 

 

Antonio Rampoldi, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow  

Email: antonio.rampoldi@emory.edu; Tel: 404-727-7129; LinkedIn

I completed my PhD in Animal Genetics at the Department of Agricultural Sciences of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich. I was initially a Postdoctoral Fellow at the Department of Microbiology, Biochemistry & Immunology at Morehouse School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia. I am now a member of the Cardiomyocyte Stem Cell Laboratory to gain experience in handling stem cells.

 

 

 

 

Parvin Forghani, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow

Email: parvin.forghani.esfahani@emory.edu; Tel: 404-727-7129; NCBI

I received my PhD in Immunology from Tehran University.  During my project I felt a great sense of pride to work under the supervision of Ned Waller in Winship cancer institute. My research has been focused on the modulation of breast tumor microenvironment, specifically Myeloid Derived Suppressor Cells using anti- and pro- inflammatory mediators. My first year of postdoctoral fellowship lead me to stay at the border of immunology and biology. Now as a new member of the cardiomyocyte stem cell lab, I found the opportunity to continue my ideas with great interest to modulate microenvironment toward maturation of cardiomyocytes. I do believe there is common language between cardio progenitor cells  and cancer cells!

 

 

Dong Li, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow

Email: dong.li@emory.edu; Tel: 404-727-7129; Linkedin

I received my PhD in Cell Biology from University of Copenhagen, Denmark. My dissertation was focused on generating transgene-free human and porcine iPSCs and investigating the mechanisms underlying the iPSC reprogramming. I obtained significant training on neurogenesis of human PSCs and adult stem cells before joining Emory University. My current research focus is on exploring the signaling pathways guiding the differentiation of human PSCs into mature cardiomyocytes and analyzing the protein modifications during maturation using advanced proteomics techniques. 

 

 

 

Cinsley Gentillon, MS, Research Specialist

Email: cinsley.gentillon@emory.edu; Tel: 404-727-7129; LinkedIn

I recently earned my Master of Science degree in Biological Sciences at the University of Delaware. I am extremely grateful to be a member of the Cardiomyocyte Stem Cell Laboratory and look forward to gain expertise in handling human cardiomyocytes derived from pluripotent stem cells. I am interested in attending medical school and hope to utilize my research experience throughout my medical career.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sydney Sharp, Student

Email: sydneybsharp@gmail.comLinkedIn

I am currently a rising sophomore at the University of Maryland, College Park double majoring in Cellular Biology & Molecular Genetics and African American Studies. I am from Silver Spring, MD and graduated from Montgomery Blair High School’s Mathematics, Science, and Computer Science magnet program. Being an intern in the Emory Summer Undergraduate Research Experience (SURE) program will give me the opportunity to gain more research experience by working with cell culture in Dr. Xu’s Lab. My prior research experience includes working at the National Institute of Health (NIH) where I assisted with a research project focused on the development of novel tissue biomarker screening techniques in the rat brain following ischemic brain injury. My plan is to attend medical school in hopes of becoming a pediatrician.

 

 

Sameer Sarma, Student

Email: sameersarma0@gmail.com; LinkedIn

I am a rising senior at Tufts University, pursuing an undergraduate major in Biomedical Engineering with a minor in Religion. I am also planning on pursuing a career in medicine. My research experience began in tissue engineering, specifically constructing 3D silk scaffold for culturing and studying primary neuronal cells. My research focus now is shifting to organ regeneration, primarily cardiac regeneration. I am look forward to gaining experience working in the Cardiomyocyte Stem Cell Laboratory, and learning techniques and methods to help me with my own research back at Tufts.

 

 

 


Past Members 


Monalisa Singh, MD, PhD, Postdoctoral Fellow   

Email: monalisa.singh@emory.edu; ResearchGate

I'm a physician scientist by training, I received my MD from Indira Gandhi Government Medical College, India and my PhD in pharmaceutical sciences from Mercer University, Atlanta, Georgia. Over the past few years I have gained expertise in bioprocessing of stem cells for tissue engineering and cardiac regenerative medicine applications. My area of research is focused on studying the effects of environmental toxins on stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes and utilizing this platform for potential drug screenings.

 

 

 

 

Makenna Pierce, Student

Email: makenna920@gmail.com

I'm a junior at Druid Hills high school and interested in attending college for biomedical research.

Selected Publications

Rampoldi A, Crooke SN, Preininger MK, Jha R, Maxwell J, Ding L, Spearman P, Finn MG, Xu C. Targeted elimination of tumorigenic human pluripotent stem cells using suicide-inducing virus-like particles. ACS Chem Biol. doi: 10.1021/acschembio.8b00490 (2018)

Maxwell JT, Xu C. Stem-cell-derived cardiomyocytes grow up: start young and train harder. Cell Stem Cell. 22, 790-791 (2018)

Nachlas ALY, Li S, Jha R, Singh M, Xu C, Davis ME. Human iPSC-derived mesenchymal stem cells matured into valve interstitial-like cells using PEGDA hydrogels. Acta Biomater. 71, 235-246 (2018)

Jha R, Singh M, Wu Q, Gentillon C, Preininger MK, Xu C. Downregulation of LGR5 expression inhibits cardiomyocyte differentiation and potentiates endothelial differentiation from human pluripotent stem cells. Stem Cell Reports. 9, 513-527 (2017)

Bylund J, Awgulewitsch CP, Trinh LT, Paik DT, Jetter C, Jha R, Zhang J, Nolan K, Xu C, Thompson T, Kamp TJ, Hatzopoulos AK. Coordinated proliferation and differentiation of human iPS cell-derived cardiac progenitor cells depends on BMP signaling regulation by Gremlin 2. Stem Cells Dev. 26, 678-693 (2017)

Preininger MK, Jha R, Maxwell JT, Wu Q, Singh M, Wang B, Dalal A, Mceachin ZT, Rossoll W, Hales CM, Fischbach P, Wagner MB, Xu C. A stem cell model of catecholaminergic polymorphic ventricular tachycardia recapitulates patient-specific drug responses. Dis Model Mech. 9:927-939 (2016)

Jha R, Wu Q, Singh M, Preininger MK, Han P, Ding G, Cho H, Jo H, Maher KO, Wagner MB, Xu C. Simulated microgravity and 3D culture enhance induction, viability, proliferation and differentiation of cardiac progenitors from human pluripotent stem cells. Sci Rep. 6:30956 (2016)

Han J, Qian X, Wu Q, Jha R, Duan J, Yang Z, Maher KO, Nie S, Xu C. Novel surface-enhanced Raman scattering-based assays for ultra-sensitive detection of human pluripotent stem cells. Biomaterials. 105:66-76 (2016)

Han J, Wu Q, Xia Y, Wagner MB and Xu C. Cell alignment induced by anisotropic electrospun fibrous alone has limited effect on cardiomyocyte maturation. Stem Cell Res. 16, 740-750 (2016)

Jha R, Wile B, Wu Q, Morris AH, Maher KO, Wagner MB, Bao G, Xu C. Molecular beacon-based detection and isolation of working-type cardiomyocytes derived from human pluripotent stem cells. Biomaterials. 50, 176-185 (2015)

Jha R, Xu R.H., Xu C. Efficient differentiation of cardiomyocytes from human pluripotent stem cells with growth factors. Methods Mol Biol. 1299:115-31 (2015)

Nguyen DC, Hookway TA, Wu Q, Jha R, Preininger MK, Chen X, Easley CA, Spearman P, Deshpande SR, Maher K, Wagner MB, McDevitt TC, Xu C. Microscale generation of cardiospheres promotes robust enrichment of cardiomyocytes derived from human pluripotent stem cells. Stem Cell Reports. 3, 260-268 (2014)

Maher KO, Xu C. Marching towards regenerative cardiac therapy with human pluripotent stem cells. Discov Med. 15, 349–356 (2013)

Xu C. Differentiation and enrichment of cardiomyocytes from human pluripotent stem cells. J Mol Cell Cardiol. 52, 1203–1212 (2012)

 

Complete List of Published Work in PubMed and Google Scholar

2018

Stem cells driven into selective suicide. July 2018.  Lab Land the Emory Health Science Blog.

Exciting time for women in science. May 2018. CASIS

2017

Pure of heart: How microgravity is improving cardiac cell quality. November, 2017. Upward, magazine of the ISS National Lab

Space station will host stem cells for heart research. October, 2017. Emory News Center.

New awardees announced for Synergy Awards to support collaborative research in health sciences. October, 2017. Emory News Center.

Blood vessels and cardiac muscle cells off the shelf. August, 2017. Lab Land the Emory Health Science Blog.

Cinsley Gentillon won the 2nd Place Poster Award at the Southeast Pediatric Research Conference. June, 2017. News of the Emory / Children's / GT Pediatric Research Alliance.

Dr. Rajneesh Jha gave an oral presentation at the Southeast Pediatric Research Conference. June, 2017. News of the Emory / Children's / GT Pediatric Research Alliance.

 

2016

Dr. Chunhui Xu received the MilliPub Award.  December, 2016. Celebration of Faculty Excellence Ceremony, Emory University School of Medicine

Using Raman spectroscopy to identify cell types. December, 2016. The Scientist.

Cardiac 'disease in a dish' models advance arrhythmia research. September, 2016. Emory News Center.

Stem cell stories that caught our eye: improving heart care, fixing sickle cell disease, stem cells & sugar. September, 2016. The Stem Cellar  ̶  The Official Blog of CIRM, California's Stem Cell Agency.

Stay out, stray stem cells. August, 2016. Lab Land the Emory Health Science Blog.

Better, faster quality control for stem cell-based therapies. August, 2016. The Stem Cellar  ̶  The Official Blog of CIRM, California's Stem Cell Agency.

Microgravity means more cardiac muscle cells. August, 2016. Lab Land the Emory Health Science Blog.

 

2015

Marcela Preininger won the 1st Place Poster Award at the 5th Pediatric Research Conference. June, 2015. News of the Emory / Children's / GT Pediatric Research Alliance.

Dr. Rajneesh Jha won the Oral Presentation Award at the Postdoctoral Research Symposium at Emory University. May, 2015. News of Emory University School of Medicine.

Faculty recognition photos - Millipub or Emory 1% Awards. March, 2015. News of the Department of Pediatrics, Emory University School of Medicine.

Dr. Chunhui Xu received the Millipub Award. March, 2015. MilliPub Club, Emory University School of Medicine.

 

2014

Dr. Rajneesh Jha won the 2nd Place Poster Award at the 4th Pediatric Research Conference. April, 2014. News of the Emory / Children's / GT Pediatric Research Alliance.

A CRISPR way to edit DNA.  April, 2014. Emory News Center.

Addendum on CRISPR. April, 2014. Lab Land the Emory Health Science Blog.

 

2013

Dr. Xu has been awarded one of seven grants from the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space (CASIS). October, 2013. News of the Department of Pediatrics, Emory University School of Medicine.

CASIS announces grant awards for stem cell research. October, 2013. CASIS Press releases.

Dr. Doan Nguyen won the 1st place Poster Award at the 3rd Pediatric Research Conference. June, 2013. News of the Emory / Children's / GT Pediatric Research Alliance.

Postdoctoral Fellowship in Stem Cells

We are seeking a postdoctoral fellow to work on human pluripotent stem cells. The research is focused on differentiation and applications of cardiomyocytes from pluripotent stem cells and will be conducted in collaboration with investigators in Children's Healthcare of Atlanta, Georgia Tech, and Emory University.  The candidate should have a recent Ph.D. preferably in Cell Biology or related disciplines with strong cellular and molecular biology expertise including cell culture, immunocytochemistry, flow cytometry analysis, qRT-PCR, generation of expression vectors and animal models. The candidate will conduct independent research and collaborate with members in the group and is expected to actively participate in experimental planning, data analysis, and manuscript writing.

To apply please send curriculum vitae, the names of 3 references, and a cover letter describing your research experience and interests to Dr. Chunhui Xu via email at chunhui.xu@emory.edu.