Over the past few years, we have been working on an internationally collaborative project to identify a human induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) line that performs well across the board to underpin large-scale collaborative studies. Together we found one cell line, KOLF2.1J, that performs well across the board after we deeply analyzed its genetic background and stability, and its ability to be efficiently gene edited by CRISPR/Cas9 and differentiated into many different functional cell types. The cell line and its derivatives are now available with minimal restrictions and cost to the research community via a user-friendly website from the Jackson Laboratories (JAX). The substantial team effort was initiated by Michael Ward and Mark Cookson at the NIH who co-lead the iPSC neurodegenerative disease (INDI) consortium and Bill Skarnes at JAX whose team has developed highly efficient protocols for gene editing. A multitude of groups around the world generously contributed data to further characterise the performance of KOLF2.1J, and the project was made possible by the tireless efforts of Caroline Pantazis, Andrian Yang, Erika Lara, Justin McDonough, Cornelis Blauwendraat, Liong Peng, John Marioni, and many others. The KOLF2.1J cell line and its applications are beautifully described in accessible language developed with the help of the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative’s Neurodegeneration Challenge Network who generously helping support these efforts that have the potential to broadly impact the stem cell and neuroscience fields.
We’re delighted that Simone Mazzaferro and Tian Tian have started in the lab! Simone is an experienced electrophysiologist who trained at Oxford Brookes and the Mayo Clinic, and will be studying neuronal responses to nutrients, hormones, and drugs relevant to metabolic disease. Tian has experience in developmental biology, electrophysiology, and optical recording of action potentials and is keen to broaden her skills to improve neuronal maturation and pursue forward programming to hypothalamic cell types of interest.
Our group’s values of equity and respect are more important than ever to affirm and broadcast in light of the ongoing and largely peaceful protests associated with the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. Racism and discrimination are unfortunately pervasive, and also affect academia. We stand with BLM in the peaceful struggle for justice and equality. Part of the problem is the spread of divisive language and misinformation on social media, and we’re proud to support an open letter to Mark Zuckerberg calling for action on posts that might endanger people’s lives or well-being.
Florian was named as one of 6 Robertson Investigators from the New York Stem Cell Foundation. This early career award of $1,500,000 will support the Merkle laboratory’s efforts to mechanistically connect obesity-associated phenotypes to cellular and organismic phenotypes, and to screen for potential anti-obesity drugs in vitro and test their effects in vivo.