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Dieter Egli

I grew up in Switzerland, and received my PhD in molecular biology from the University of Zurich. After postdoctoral training at Harvard University, I became a group leader at the New York Stem Cell Foundation Research Institute and then an Assistant Professor at Columbia University Irving Medical Center in New York City.

I am enthusiastic about science and our ability to find cures for diseases that are not yet solved.

As a hobby, I like doing triathlons and road racing.

I am also fortunate to have a wonderful family.

For more on my path in science, see below.

LAB MEMBERS

Lina Sui PhD

Dr. Sui received her Ph.D in Biomedical Science in 2012 from Diabetes research center of Vrije Universities Brussel. Dr. Sui joined Dr. Dieter Egli’s lab in Columbia University Medical Center in 2014 for postdoctoral training. Her current research interest is studying the mechanism of monogenic and type 1 diabetes by establishment of diabetes model in vivo and in vitro based on the iPSCs and genomic editing approaches. Lina's most recent paper in Diabetes shows human stem cell derived beta cells of a patient with diabetes can are fully functional. PMID: 28931519.

Daniela Georgieva

Daniela is a graduate student in the Integrated Program at Columbia University. Her interests include DNA repair and reprogramming.

Publications: Tying genetic stability to cell identity. Cell Cycle 2017. PMID: 28548589 

Bryan J. Gonzalez

Bryan is a graduate student in the Nutrition Program at Columbia University. He is interested in understanding monogenic forms of diabetes, especially maturity-onset diabetes of the young (MODY). His research “Stem cell-derived beta-cells to model Diabetes due to HNF1a deficiency” was presented at the IHN’s 2015 Wu Lecture, where he was selected as one of two recipients of the Marija Chouinard Award for Excellence in Research. He also received the Acres of Diamonds Award as a winner in the national abstract competition and for distinction in the oral presentations in 2016 at the Minority Trainee Research Forum. He is a graduate of the University of Lausanne, Switzerland, with a master's degree in Medical Biology. 

Michael Zuccaro

Michael received his BS in Biotechnology and Genomics and MBS from Rutgers University. He is a graduate student enrolled in Columbia University's Physiology and Cellular Biophysics program. Michael is interested in the mechanisms that determine ploidy. Why are we diploid, not haploid or tetraploid? And why do some cells, such as in the placenta make ploidy transitions anyway?

Publications: Inter-homologue repair in fertilized human eggs? Nature 2018

 

"Distinct Imprinting Signatures and Biased Differentiation of Human Androgenetic and Parthenogenetic Embryonic Stem Cells" Cell Stem Cell 2019. 

Ning Wang

Ning Wang received his BS in Northwest A&F University, China. He is a visiting PhD student from Northwest A&F University on a scholarship.

Ning is interested in stem cell differentiation, DNA replication and imprinting.

Qian Du

Vicky (Qian) Du is a postdoctoral fellow who joined us in October 2019. She has a medical degree from Xiangya School of Medicine, and masters degrees in Gerontology from the University of Southern California and in Biotechnology from Columbia University.

Vicky is interested how genome instability in beta cells activates the immune system to cause T1D.

Vicky also has been playing the piano since very young age, Chopin is her favorite. She also loves reading Conan Doyle's and Agatha Christie's books.

Morgan Smith

Morgan is a Research Assistant who joined us in September 2019. Morgan studies how stem cell derived beta cells can be protected from autoimmunity in type 1 diabetes.

Morgan has lived in Florida and loves diving.

Alumni

Giacomo Diedenhofen
Giacomo is a visiting MD student from the University of Rome. He is interested in autoimmune mechanisms. He published a paper with the Ciccia lab on enhancing double strand break repair in stem cells: PMC6667477
Kat Palmerola
Kat is an ObGyn fellow interested in the molecular mechanisms determining developmental potential at preimplantation stages.
Mitsutoshi Yamada, MD, PhD
Dr. Mitsutoshi Yamada, MD, PhD, performed his postdoctoral studies in the Egli lab from 2013-2015 at The New York Stem Cell Foundation Research Institute. Mitsutoshi is now an Assistant Professor at the Keio University School of Medicine, Tokyo, Japan.
Publications:

Genetic Drift Can Compromise Mitochondrial Replacement by Nuclear Transfer in Human Oocytes. PMID: 27212703

Human oocytes reprogram adult somatic nuclei of a type 1 diabetic to diploid pluripotent stem cells. Nature. 2014. PMID: 24776804

Genome Transfer Prevents Fragmentation and Restores Developmental Potential of Developmentally Compromised Postovulatory Aged Mouse Oocytes. PMID: 28242217

Gloryn Chia le Bin, PhD

Gloryn performed her postdoctoral studies in the Egli lab as a fellow funded by the A*STAR international fellowship. Her work focused on genetic instability after reprogramming

Publications: Genomic instability during reprogramming by nuclear transfer is DNA replication dependent. This publication demonstrates a link between cell identity and genetic stability. PMID:28263958

Gloryn is now an Assistant Professor at the Department of Pharmacy, National University of Singapore.

Daniel Kort, MD
Dr. Daniel Kort, MD, was an ObGyn fellow studying chromosome segregation errors in preimplantation development. 
Human embryos commonly form abnormal nuclei during development: a mechanism of DNA damage, embryonic aneuploidy, and developmental arrest. Human Reproduction. 2016. PMID:26621855
Daniel Paull, PhD
Dan did his postdoctoral studies in the Egli lab from 2011-2013. 
His studies were on mitochondrial replacement in human oocytes. PMID:23254936
Dr. Paull then became the Vice President of Automation systems and Stem Cell Biology at the NYSCF-Research Institute
Linshan Shang, PhD
Linshan was a postdoctoral fellow in the Egli lab from 2010 to 2013. She studied Wolfram syndrome, a rare and lethal form of diabetes in a stem cell model of human disease. 
PMID: 24227685
Her study is the first stem cell model of diabetes.

Shuangyu Ma

Shuangyu Ma received her BS in Jilin University, China. She is a visiting graduate student from China Agricultural University, Beijing.

Shuangyu showed the correction of a diabetes-causing mutation at the insulin locus in patient specific stem cells, restoring beta cell function. Transplantation of the gene corrected cells protects mice from diabetes. The use of autologous cells for non-immune mediated forms of diabetes provides a path to beta cell replacement without the need for immune protection. 

PMID:30503261

Shuangyu is the recipient of a scholarship of the China Scholarship Council. 

Lauren Zakarin, MD​
Lauren, ObGyn fellow at CUMC,  investigated gene editing in haploid human pluripotent stem cells.
She also published a study on the experience of oocyte donors participating in research. PMID: 29872942

Ryan M. Viola

Ryan was the lab manager for the Egli lab. His research interests included cystic fibrosis and stem cell reprogramming.

His following position is at Sigilon Therapeutics.

Anthony Romer PhD

Anthony was a post doctoral fellow researching novel candidate genes contributing to diabetes. Anthony published on the role of NeuroD1 in beta cell proliferation and stem cell differentiation. PMID:31519700

His following position is at Sigilon Therapeutics. 

Catha Fischer, MD

Catha Fischer, MD, ObGyn fellow, here shown at work with Bob Prosser (left), is working on mitochondrial replacement in patients with disease causing mutations.

 

Her following position is at RMA New Jersey

Christian Ulrik Nielsson
Christian Ulrik Nielsson​
Christian did his masters studies as a visiting student from Denmark. He studied permanent neonatal diabetes using stem cell models.
Lisa Grossman Becht, MD, Ob/Gyn fellow

Lisa investigated diploidization in human haploid development.  

Joy Tanaka, PhD (far left), Joao de Pinho, MD (far right)

About the PI, Dieter Egli

 

I was fortunate to be mentored and taught by pioneers in molecular and developmental biology, including Drs. Walter Schaffner, Ernst Hafen, Konrad Basler, and Charles Weissmann. During my PhD in the laboratory of Dr. Schaffner, my primary interest was in double strand break induced homologous recombination in the fruit fly.Realizing that finding cures required the study of human cells, I joined the laboratory of Prof. Kevin Eggan at Harvard University as a postdoctoral fellow funded by a Swiss National Science Foundation fellowship. In Kevin's lab, I studied how oocytes turn a differentiated cell into a pluripotent stem cell. We found that mitosis was a mediator of cell type transitions, in work that was published in the journal Nature. This research was motivated by the concept of 'therapeutic cloning', an idea born when Dolly the sheep was cloned, and when human embryonic stem cells were derived in the late 90ies. The combination of these two powerful technologies should allow the re-generation of any tissue and organ with a patient's own cells. For instance, it should allow the generation of insulin-producing beta cells, the cells that are lost in type 1 diabetes. This was a distant dream in 2005, when no one had made such personalized stem cells, and when no one had reported the generation of beta cells from human stem cells.

 

The path to get to these stem cells appeared straightforward: get human eggs and inject the nucleus of a skin cell, derive stem cell lines and turn the stem cell into a beta cell. However, none of it was as straightforward as it seemed when we set out to do this. Realizing this goal took two postdoctoral fellowships and two PI positions across three different institutions, required insights into the basic biology of human eggs, the acquisition of new skills, and fortunate circumstances. 

 

At Harvard University, our work followed the shocking revelation that earlier claims made by others on cloned human stem cells were false, and had to be retracted. After much initial enthusiasm at Harvard University about these studies, we soon realized that we would not obtain very many eggs due to regulatory hurdles related to funding of the research. In 2008, I moved to the New York Stem Cell Foundation Research Institute in Manhattan as a NYSCF-Druckenmiller postdoctoral fellow. There I showed that human eggs could reprogram a somatic cell to a pluripotent state. The study was published in Nature, and was my first as a senior author. It was named the medical breakthrough of the year 2011 by Time Magazine. In 2014, I was a group leader with a small research team, and we showed that cloned stem cells could be made from a patient with type 1 diabetes, a study that was again published in Nature.  

 

Patients at the Naomi Berrie Diabetes Center had donated the skin cells for stem cell derivation, and we now wanted to know if they could form beta cells. In 2014, I became Assistant Professor at Columbia University and started to build my research group there. The location at the Columbia University Medical Center was ideal to make connections between doctors, patients and researchers. Mice participating in research were also an important factor. We differentiated the stem cells to insulin producing beta cells and grafted them into mice to answer the question whether the patient matched stem cells could make functional, insulin producing beta cells. Indeed mice without their own beta cells could regulate their blood glucose normally because of the grafted human cells, a study that was published in the journal Diabetes.

We made the proof of principle, that therapeutic cloning in humans is possible. It is no longer a distant dream that personalized stem cells cure diseases that we can only manage today.

Alongside these studies, we performed research on mitochondrial replacement, parthenogenesis, haploid stem cells, disease modeling, and the differentiation of pluripotent stem cells to hypothalamic neurons

 

Among the most surprising findings during these studies occurred while I was imaging the first division of the human egg after transfer of a somatic nucleus: chromosomes failed to segregate normally, and formed a chromatin bridge. Further investigation into the molecular mechanism showed that this was caused by cell type specific differences in chromatin affecting DNA replication, studies that were published in Nature Cell Biology. This points towards unknown links between genome stability and the identity of a cell. My group is now performing research to understand genome instability during development and cell type transitions.