Prof. R. Goldstein's Lab
Neurodegenerative Disease Research
Prof. Ron Goldstein, of the Mina and Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences and President of the Israel Society for Stem Cell Research for 2011-2013, focuses his research on medical applications of neural cells derived from human embryonic stem cells (hESC).
In his first study on these headline-making cells, a collaboration with Prof. Nissim Benvenisty at the Hebrew University, he transplanted human embryonic stem cells (ESC) to organogenesis stage chick embryos, and found that the embryonic environment induced human CNS-like differentiation.
In 2005, Goldstein’s lab was the first to successfully coax human embryonic stem cells into generating human primary sensory (DRG-like) neurons and their precursors, neural crest cells. Since then, they have steadily improved the yield and speed of differentiation of this neuronal phenotype in culture.
Today, they are using these lab-generated neurons for two major biomedical applications, axon regeneration and study and treatment of neuropathic viral infections.
Goldstein's first pre-clinical application using hESC-derived neurons is the study of axonal regeneration. Nerve regeneration has been studied for decades with animal models, but there are almost no studies in humans.
Goldstein's team is conducting the first-ever molecular studies of repair and regeneration of damaged human nerve cells.
Goldstein's team has established a system using laser-lesioning of axons from hESC-derived neurons to generate the first-ever gene expression data from regenerating human neurons.
This project, funded by the Adelson Program on Neural Regeneration and Repair, was a collaboration with Prof. Mike Fainzilber of the Weizmann Institute as well as additional colleagues at UCLA.
This work may provide new genetic targets for enhancing nerve re-growth after trauma, which could enhance nerve repair in patients with nerve damage, and potentially, spinal cord injury as well.
Goldstein has also published a study showing an efficient method to generate Schwann cells, the peripheral glia that are involved in normal regeneration of nerves, from hESC.
Goldstein also works with a rapid, economical and humane in-vivo system for studying human cancers and stem cells. He has shown that bird embryos, which do not feel pain or have the ability to reject human cells, can be used for growing blood cancers that can be killed with chemotherapy agents.
In addition, in collaboration with Prof. Benjamin Dekel of the Sheba Medical center, avian embryos are being used to study stem cells and cancers of the human kidney.