Last Name

Wai Lun Leung PhD

TitlePostdoctoral Fellow
InstitutionUConn Health Center
AddressMC 3401
MC 3401
263 Farmington Avenue
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    TitlePostdoctoral Fellow
    InstitutionUConn Health Center
    DepartmentGenetics and Developmental Biology

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    Defining the maintenance and differentiation conditions are the two major challenges for successful cell therapy using human pluripotent stem cells (HPSC). As maintaining HPSC becomes a routine in laboratories, the remaining challenge lies in devising efficient differentiation and purification protocols for specific lineages which may have been overlooked because of the scarcity of marker information and previous studies from other model organisms. My research interests thus focus on identifying potential molecular markers for these lineages and employing developmental principles to devise strategies to guide specific differentiation processes.

    (1) Matrix molecules such as collagens, fibronectin, and laminins are well known to modulate and buffer extracellular signaling pathways which are important for stem cell maintenance, proliferation and differentiation. My previous data in a mouse model and in vitro studies from others indicate the feasibility of using the cartilage matrix molecule collagen II as a niche factor to coerce differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells into specific cell lineages such as the cardiomyocytes. My expertise in developmental biology and pluripotent stem cell manipulation may be beneficial in the implementation of any such future studies.

    (2) Generation of functional sensory progenitors is the key to successful sensory regeneration. Current efforts focused on the use of multipotent neural crest cells which have the disadvantages of generating unwanted cell types. Using human embryonic stem cells, I devise a method to generate sensory progenitors from the cranial placode cells which contribute cells exclusively to the sense organs and sensory neurons. This may prove to be a better cell source for modeling sensory disorders and regenerative therapy.

    (3) Treatments for hereditary and acquired hearing loss and vestibular disorders employ prostheses that require integrity of the auditory and vestibular afferent neurons. Cell therapy using derived human sensory neuron progenitor is one of the viable means to supplement the treatments in patients with severe neuronal degeneration in the auditory and vestibular nerves. My current research work focuses on developing efficient differentiation protocol to generate functional inner ear sensory neuron progenitors from human embryonic stem cells which are suitable for cell therapeutic use.

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    Publications listed below are automatically derived from MEDLINE/PubMed and other sources, which might result in incorrect or missing publications. Faculty can login to make corrections and additions.
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    1. Alan W.L. Leung, James Li, D. Kent Morest. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratories - Cell Engineering & Cell-Based Therapies. Differentiating Human Embryonic Stem Cells towards the Auditory Sensory Neuron Precursor. 2011.
    2. Leung W, Wong SY, Chan D, Tam PP, Cheah KS. Developmental Dynamics. Loss of procollagen IIA from the anterior mesendoderm disrupts the development of mouse embryonic forebrain. 2010; 9(239):2319-29.
    3. Cheah KSE, Wong SYY, Zhang JCL, Leung A., et al. . Mechanisms of Development. Procollagen IIA regulates BMP/TGFbeta signaling in patterning the heart and its major vessels. 2005; (122):S16-05.
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