Doctor of Philosophy, Universitat Graz (2010)
Doctor of Medicine, Universitat Graz (2006)
Ravindra Majeti, Postdoctoral Faculty Sponsor
Evidence for the cancer stem cell model was first demonstrated in xenotransplanted blood and bone marrow samples from patients with acute myeloid leukemia (AML) almost two decades ago, supporting the concept that a rare clonal and mutated leukemic stem cell (LSC) population is sufficient to drive leukemic growth. The inability to eliminate LSCs with conventional therapies is thought to be the primary cause of disease relapse in AML patients, and as such, novel therapies with the ability to target this population are required to improve patient outcomes. An important step towards this goal is the identification of common immunophenotypic surface markers and biological properties that distinguish LSCs from normal hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells (HSPCs) across AML patients. This work has resulted in the development of a large number of potential LSC-selective therapies that target cell surface molecules, intracellular signaling pathways, and the bone marrow microenvironment. Here, we will review the basic biology, immunophenotypic detection, and clinical relevance of LSCs, as well as emerging biological and small-molecule strategies that either directly target LSCs or indirectly target these cells through modulation of their microenvironment.
View details for DOI 10.1053/j.seminhematol.2015.03.008
View details for Web of Science ID 000357433800002
In the last decade there has been a rapid expansion in clinical trials using mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs) from a variety of tissues. However, despite similarities in morphology, immunophenotype and differentiation behavior in vitro, MSCs sourced from distinct tissues do not necessarily have equivalent biological properties. We performed a genome-wide methylation, transcription and in vivo evaluation of MSCs from human bone marrow (BM), white adipose tissue, umbilical cord and skin cultured in humanized media. Surprisingly, only BM-derived MSCs spontaneously formed a bone marrow cavity through a vascularized cartilage intermediate in vivo that was progressively replaced by hematopoietic tissue and bone. Only BM-derived MSCs exhibited a chondrogenic transcriptional program with hypomethylation and increased expression of RUNX3, RUNX2, BGLAP, MMP13 and ITGA10 consistent with a latent and primed skeletal developmental potential. The humanized MSC-derived microenvironment permitted homing and maintenance of long-term murine SLAM(+) hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) as well as human CD34(+)/CD38(-)/CD90(+)/CD45RA(+) HSCs after cord blood transplantation. These studies underscore the profound differences in developmental potential between MSC sources independent of donor age with implications for their clinical use. We also demonstrate a tractable human niche model for studying homing and engraftment of human hematopoietic cells in normal and neoplastic states.
View details for DOI 10.1182/blood-2014-04-572255
View details for Web of Science ID 000350810200014
Acute myeloid leukemia (AML) is associated with deregulation of DNA methylation; however, many cases do not bear mutations in known regulators of CpG methylation. We found that mutations in WT1, IDH2, and CEBPA were strongly linked to DNA hypermethylation in AML using a novel integrative analysis of TCGA data based on Boolean implications, if-then rules that identify all individual CpG sites that are hypermethylated in the presence of a mutation. Introduction of mutant WT1 (WT1mut) into wildtype AML cells induced DNA hypermethylation, confirming mutant WT1 to be causally associated with DNA hypermethylation. Methylated genes in WT1mut primary patient samples were highly enriched for polycomb repressor complex 2 (PRC2) targets, implicating PRC2 dysregulation in WT1mut leukemogenesis. We found that PRC2 target genes were aberrantly repressed in WT1mut AML, and that expression of mutant WT1 in CD34+ cord blood cells induced myeloid differentiation block. Treatment of WT1mut AML cells with shRNA or pharmacologic PRC2/EZH2 inhibitors promoted myeloid differentiation, suggesting EZH2 inhibitors may be active in this AML subtype. Our results highlight a strong association between mutant WT1 and DNA hypermethylation in AML, and demonstrate that Boolean implications can be used to decipher mutation-specific methylation patterns that may lead to therapeutic insights.
View details for DOI 10.1182/blood-2014-03-566018
View details for Web of Science ID 000350810200020
View details for PubMedID 25398938
This article describes a new acquisition and reconstruction concept for positive contrast imaging of cells labeled with superparamagnetic iron oxides (SPIOs). Overcoming the limitations of a negative contrast representation as gained with gradient echo and fully balanced steady state (bSSFP), the proposed method delivers a spatially localized contrast with high cellular sensitivity not accomplished by other positive contrast methods. Employing a 3D radial bSSFP pulse sequence with half-echo sampling, positive cellular contrast is gained by adding artificial global frequency offsets to each half-echo before image reconstruction. The new contrast regime is highlighted with numerical intravoxel simulations including the point-spread function for 3D half-echo acquisitions. Furthermore, the new method is validated on the basis of in vitro cell phantom measurements on a clinical MRI platform, where the measured contrast-to-noise ratio (CNR) of the new approach exceeds even the negative contrast of bSSFP. Finally, an in vivo proof of principle study based on a mouse model with a clear depiction of labeled cells within a subcutaneous cell islet containing a cell density as low as 7 cells/mm(3) is presented. The resultant isotropic images show robustness to motion and a high CNR, in addition to an enhanced specificity due to the positive contrast of SPIO-labeled cells.
View details for DOI 10.1002/nbm.3229
View details for Web of Science ID 000345983100010
View details for PubMedID 25379657