Rotary Club of Bondi Junction - PhD Scholarship for Stem Cell Research

   Published: Monday, 19 September 2011

Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute
Monash University, Victoria
Rotary Club of Bondi Junction
Stem Cell Research 2011

by Australian Rotary Health

Bianca Borchin is a PhD candidate at the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute, Monash University in Melbourne. In 2009, Bianca completed a Bachelor of Science, majoring in Developmental Biology. Bianca further progressed to complete an honours year in the field of stem cell biology.

With an undergraduate background in developmental biology and an interest in regenerative medicine, Bianca’s honours year involved investigating the potential of human embryonic stem cells to differentiate into early skeletal muscle precursors.

A PhD scholarship from the Australian Rotary Health and The Rotary Club of Bondi Junction will allow Bianca to continue her studies and undertake a full-time PhD, where she hopes to derive a potential cell therapy source for those suffering with degenerative muscular diseases.


Derivation of skeletal myocytes from human embryonic stem cells

Muscular dystrophies (MD) are inherited diseases characterized by progressive weakness and degeneration of the skeletal muscles that control movement. Despite the advances made in identifying the genetic defects causing the diseases, there is currently no effective treatment available. However, some cellular therapies are being tested, and one solid candidate for such an approach to MD therapy could come from human embryonic stem cells (hESCs).

Human ESCs are pluripotent cells derived from the inner cell mass of the early stage embryo. In vitro, these cells display extensive proliferation and the ability to recapitulate in vitro the earliest stages of human development and can be differentiated into a variety of tissues and specialized cells such as striated muscle. Therefore, in our laboratory, we are using hESCs to develop a possible MD therapy based on differentiated muscle precursors from hESC.

To achieve this we will employ selective culture techniques along with cell sorting strategies to derive and isolate a bipotent, primitive target cell type. We will further differentiate this cell population towards the myogenic lineage through the exogenous addition of known myogenic factors. However to aid in the identification of early muscle precursors we will use a hESC reporter cell line in which expression of a specific muscle stem cell gene is monitored through activation of a fluorescent protein. Therefore, as hESC differentiation proceeds, certain cells will express the gene activating expression of the fluorescent protein, thus allowing isolation of myogenic precursors.

These precursors will be expanded to form mature bipolar muscle cells. Expanding on this, we will move to the next experimental level, a disease animal model, and assess the therapeutic potential of hESC-derived skeletal myogenic cells in vivo, upon transplantation into a mouse model of MD.