Lab Members

PI: Dr. Teisha Rowland

As a graduate student at UC Santa Barbara in the lab of Dennis O. Clegg, Dr. Rowland specialized in stem cell biology (primarily utilizing human iPSCs and hESCs) with a focus on the effects of the extracellular matrix (ECM) on the adhesion, proliferation, and differentiation of stem cells. These efforts were aimed at ultimately treating patients with age-related macular degeneration (AMD) by developing an efficient method to generate retinal pigmented epithelium (RPE) from human iPSCs and hESCs and creating an implantable scaffold system for patient transplantation of RPE cells. Treatment strategies building upon her efforts have entered clinical trials. In her first postdoctoral position at the CU Denver Anschutz Medical Campus in the joint lab of Luisa Mestroni and Matthew R.G. Taylor, Dr. Rowland gained valuable experience in generating patient-specific disease models through differentiation of patient-derived iPSCs into cardiomyocytes (iPSC-CMs), as well as designing and undertaking high-throughput drug screening assays using these patient-derived cells. Dr. Rowland went on to become a postdoctoral researcher at CU Boulder in the lab of Prof. Thomas Cech, where she researched the epigenetic mechanisms by which cancer cells become immortal through reactivation of telomerase. Dr. Rowland is currently the founding Director of the CU Boulder Stem Cell Research and Technology Resource Center, a campus-wide shared facility with the mission of promoting interdisciplinary research utilizing human pluripotent stem cells.

Undergraduate Researchers

Ashlynn Barnes

Lab Member: 2020 –

Project: Can differentiation of human iPSCs to cardiomyocytes be improved by culture on rationally-selected ECM proteins?

The heart, due to its internal location and essential function, is challenging to study. Additionally, many people require a heart transplant, but there are limited donors. To address both of these needs, a promising, unlimited source of cardiomyocytes (CMs) is iPSCs. CMs derived (or “differentiated”) from iPSCs can be used to create cellular models to investigate heart development and disease, and may be used for cardiac tissue transplants. However, iPSC-CM differentiation protocols are lengthy and produce immature CMs. Ashlynn is testing the hypothesis that differentiation on rationally-selected ECM proteins will improve iPSC-CM differentiation.

Tessa Holmstoen

Lab Member: 2020 –

Project: How do breast cancer cells become “immortal”?

Telomerase is a key part of what makes breast cancer cells become “immortal,” although it is unclear how telomerase becomes pathologically active in these cells. It is likely that telomerase is already active at a very early stage of breast cancer. However, a lack of accurate cellular models make it challenging to investigate changes in telomerase activity. The main goal of Tessa’s current project is to answer the following question: Can we create an accurate model of early breast cancer tumorigenesis using human iPSCs, and how does telomerase become active in this model of early breast cancer cells?

Katherine Jacobsen and Makayla Moran

Lab Members: 2021 –

Team Project: Literature review of the epigenetic mechanisms by which cancer cells become “immortal” through reactivation of telomerase.

While telomerase activity is required for the majority of cancers to become “immortal,” it remains unclear how many cancers have achieved this. While a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of Prof. Thomas Cech, Rowland researched and published epigenetic mechanisms involved in the reactivation of telomerase for most cancer types. The main goal of Makayla and Katherine’s current team project is to answer the following question through a literature review: How do epigenetic changes to the TERT gene correlate with its expression in human cancers?

Heylee Hewawasam and Elijah Hawat

Lab Members: 2021 –

Team Project: Can live human iPSCs be fluorescently labeled to monitor differentiation into the three germ layers over time?

Using cutting-edge CRISPR/Cas9 genome-editing techniques, it is now possible to create human iPSC lines that express fluorescently-labeled proteins of interest in real time. This means it is possible to monitor changes in expression of proteins in live cells over time. An exciting application is to make iPSC lines that can fluorescently express proteins that show they are differentiating (or turning into) specific mature cell types. By using these iPSC lines, we may be able to measure how different factors, such as the ECM, impacts differentiation in live cells. The main goal of Elijah and Heylee’s current team project is to answer the following question: Can we use CRISPR/Cas9 techniques to create fluorescently-labeled iPSC lines to monitor differentiation into the three germ layers (endoderm, ectoderm, and mesoderm)?

Staff Scientist

Laurence Fairchild

Lab Member: 2020 –

Laurence is a full-time PRA for the Stem Cell Research and Technology Resource Center. He is currently optimizing CRISPR/Cas9-related human iPSC technologies at the Center.

Undergraduate Work-Study Student

Mayu Bickner

Lab Member: 2021 –

Mayu is an undergraduate work-study student at the Stem Cell Research and Technology Resource Center.