Hiroko Nobuta is an Assistant Professor in the Departments of Neuroscience and Cell Biology as well as Neurosurgery, at Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. She is also a resident faculty member at the Center for Advanced Biotechnology and Medicine. The major goal of the research in the Nobuta lab is to develop regenerative medicine for human oligodendrocyte disorders such as leukodystrophies, multiple sclerosis, and white matter injury associated with premature birth, the disorders that cause life-long disabilities yet no cure has been offered to the patients.
The Nobuta lab takes two approaches to achieve this goal: 1) gaining fundamental knowledge in human oligodendrocyte development extracting data directly from human cells and tissues, and 2) engineering transplantable human oligodendrocytes by direct lineage conversion.
1) Gaining fundamental knowledge in human oligodendrocyte development.
The vast majority of our knowledge in oligodendrocyte biology is derived from mouse models. Despite significant advances in mouse oligodendrocyte knowledge, only a limited number of effective therapies have been translated to human oligodendrocyte disorders. To close the knowledge gap, our lab uses transcriptomic analysis comparing mouse and human oligodendrocytes to identify human specific oligodendrocyte populations. Obtained information will be used to study the function of human oligodendrocytes using imaging, genetics, and electrophysiological techniques.
2) Engineering transplantable human oligodendrocytes.
Oligodendrocytes are considered a great candidate for cell-based transplantation therapy because of their ability to repair the damaged myelin. However, no method exists to generate autologous, transplantable human oligodendrocytes at high quantity and safety. Our lab will establish an alternative method for human oligodendrocyte production by direct lineage conversion of human dermal fibroblasts (skin cells) using transcription factor-based cellular reprogramming. We will optimize the engineering protocol to generate highly efficient, transplantable oligodendrocytes for clinical application. Furthermore, we will use the engineered oligodendrocyte system to develop a cost- and time- effective drug screening platform for oligodendrocyte disorders. The platform will fast-forward disease modeling, drug discovery, and personalized treatment for oligodendrocyte disorders.