Laboratory for Stem Cell Engineering and Human Disease Modeling
The Musah Lab aims to understand how molecular and biophysical cues can function either synergistically or independently to guide organ development and function, and how these processes can be therapeutically harnessed to treat human disease. Research in our laboratory covers a range of interests from fundamental studies of stem cell and tissue differentiation to engineered devices for clinical diagnostics and therapeutics. A major effort in our lab is focused on understanding the roles of molecular and biophysical cues in human organ development and how these processes can be applied to understand disease mechanisms and develop new therapeutic strategies. We develop differentiation methods by the identification and optimization of multiple, synergistic factors (soluble and insoluble, mechanical forces) within the stem cell niche to guide organ-specific (neuronal and kidney) lineage specification. To engineer in vitro models of human tissues and organs, we integrate our stem cell differentiation strategies with microfluidic systems engineering, hydrogel synthesis, biofunctionalization, and three-dimensional (3D) bioprinting technologies to build dynamic circuits with living cells.
Given the prevalence of degenerative disorders which can lead to organ failure, and the lack of targeted therapeutics, our current research projects focus on applying stem cell biology to engineer functional models of the human organs (kidney and brain) with the goal of developing novel therapeutic modalities for human kidney diseases and understanding the mechanisms of neurodegeneration in patients with chronic kidney disease and other pathological conditions. Our interdisciplinary team of scientists, engineers, and clinicians use ideas and approaches spanning stem cell and developmental biology, biophysics, microengineering, chemistry, medicine, genome engineering, and computational/mathematical modeling of complex biological problems.