Postdoctoral Fellows

Haibin Xi

Previous training: University of Miami and Fudan University
Human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) are a superior source for obtaining skeletal muscle progenitor cells (SMPCs) for treating muscle disorders such as Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD). My project is focusing on devloping an efficient and defined protocol to differentiate hPSCs to generate SMPCs following developmental myogenesis and understand the indentity of the in vitro-derived SMPCs. To achieve this, I am building transcriptional profiles of distinct myogenic populations during early human myogenesis to guide better differentiation of SMPCs from hPSCs. At the same time, I am also constructing myogenic marker reporter lines to enable high throughput screening for unbiased discovery of candidates to improve differentiation. The ultimate goal is to use hPSC-derived SMPCs in cell transplantation therapy to cure DMD.

Awards:  BSCRC Travel Award, CDMD Elevator Pitch Award Recipient 

Michael Hicks

Previous training: Arizona State University and University of Arizona
My research uses directed differentiation of hPSCs to generate skeletal muscle progenitor cells (SMPCs) to repair and replace damaged muscle fibers. My work has identified unique subpopulations of SMPCs with robust myogenic potential. I am currently characterizing hPSC-derived muscle to human adult and fetal muscle, modeling the muscle stem cell niche, and identifying small molecules to further drive hPSC myogenesis. I am currently testing in vivo functional potential using intramuscular and systemic transplantation approaches. 

Awards: 2015-2016 CureDuchenne Postdoctoral Fellowship; 2016-2017 CDMD- NIH U54 Wellstone Fellowship, 2017-current Eli and Edythe Broad Postdoctoral Fellowship and Shaffer Foundation Fellow.

Graduate Students

Courtney Young (co-mentored by Melissa Spencer)

Previous training: University College London and Johns Hopkins University
My research focuses on developing a CRISPR/Cas9-mediated gene editing platform to correct the reading frame for up to 60% of Duchenne muscular dystrophy patients. We have demonstrated efficacy in DMD human induced pluripotent stem cells to restore dystrophin protein and function after differentiation to cardiac and skeletal muscle. We are currently developing in vivo strategies for our gene editing approach.
Awards: National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship 2014-current; UCLA Graduate Deans Scholar Award 2013-2014, 2017 Dissertation Year Award, Brenner Award, Charles E. & Sue K. Young Graduate Student Award.

Kholoud Saleh

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Previous training: Dr. Reza Ardehali Lab, UCLA and Qatar University, Bachelors of Science
My research focuses on the molecular and functional properties of muscle progenitor cells and muscle stem cells derived from human development and from human pluripotent stem cells. We are evaluating the functional engraftment potential via direct intra muscular versus systemic engraftment of CRISPR corrected cells in mouse models of DMD.

Awards:  Qatar Fellowship 2016-current

Undergraduate Students

Julia Hiserodt

Currently a 4th year Microbiology, Immunology, and Molecular Genetics major with a minor in Biomedical Research.

Awards: 2016 Amgen Scholarship

Katrina Paras

Currently a 3rd year Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology major with a minor in Biomedical Research.

Awards: i2URP Fellow, Care Fellowship

Karen Gonzalez

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Currently a 3rd year Molecular, Cell, and Developmental Biology major with a minor in Biomedical Research.

Awards: NIH-MARC Scholar, HHMI Undergraduate Research Program