One of the nation’s leading stem cell biologists arrived at Yale last summer to lead a new program that will explore the unique properties and therapeutic potential of these cells. Haifan Lin, Ph.D., and Associate Director Diane S. Krause, M.D., Ph.D., an associate professor of laboratory medicine and pathology and an expert on bone marrow stem cells, will lead the new Yale Stem Cell Program (YSCP). They will oversee a group of a half-dozen scientists and an administrative and technical staff devoted to research on human embryonic and adult stem cells, as well as stem cells in the mouse, fruit fly and roundworm.
The new center comes as the State of Connecticut has allocated $20 million for the Connecticut Stem Cell Research Grants Program, making it one of three states to fund this research. The YSCP has applied for funding from the state program and its applications were still under review this fall.
Stem cells, which can differentiate into many of the myriad cell types that form the body’s tissues and organs, have been much in the news as a potentially powerful treatment for diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, spinal cord injury and other serious illnesses. The program will provide a scientific hub for more than 30 faculty members across the medical school and university who work on stem cell-related topics. Over the next few years, the YSCP will recruit four additional faculty members.
Three core research facilities are now being put in place: a human embryonic stem cell culture laboratory directed by Lin and Krause; a cell sorting center directed by Mark J. Shlomchik, M.D., Ph.D., professor of laboratory medicine and immunobiology; and a confocal microscopy laboratory directed by Michael H. Nathanson, M.D., Ph.D., professor of medicine and cell biology. The YSCP will eventually occupy one floor of the Amistad Building on the southern edge of the medical school campus, which is now under construction and slated for occupancy next year.
Lin comes to Yale from Duke University, where he was co-founder and co-director of the Stem Cell Research Program. He received his undergraduate degree from Fudan University in Shanghai, China, and his Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1990. He completed his postdoctoral training at the Carnegie Institution of Washington before joining the Department of Cell Biology at Duke University Medical Center in 1994.
Through his discovery of stem cells in the ovary of the fruit fly and his establishment of these cells as a research tool, Lin obtained direct evidence for the century-old hypothesis of asymmetric division as the means by which stem cells can both self-renew and produce daughter cells with the ability to differentiate into many distinct cell types. Lin has also discovered key genes that regulate stem cell division.
“Haifan Lin is a pre-eminent scientist whose research on the most basic mechanisms of stem cell biology has had a tremendous impact on the field,” said Dean Robert J. Alpern, M.D., Ensign Professor of Medicine. “He has the broad perspective needed to lead this exciting new effort at Yale.”