"It is a privilege to be included among this group of talented, motivated, and incredibly innovative scientists. The Distinguished Scientist Award will help catalyze our efforts to understand the developmental principles that underlie glioblastoma using new genetic and stem cell tools. This award provides such an important and unique opportunity to interface with leaders in the field and the chance to build lasting relationships and collaborations."
- Dr. Steven A. Sloan
- Assistant Professor, Department of Human Genetics, Emory University School of Medicine, 2018-present
About DSA-Funded Research
Glioblastomas are one of the most malignant types of central nervous system tumors and remain largely incurable despite advances in treatment modalities. These tumors are comprised of cancerous versions of a normal brain cell-type called astrocytes, which proliferate uncontrollably in this disease setting. My past work has centered around studying astrocytes from human patients—how they develop, how they mature, and what functions they play in normal brain development. One of our most surprising findings was the striking similarities between fetal human astrocytes and those we isolated directly from glioblastoma samples. This observation is what drives the central question of this proposal: if we knew what mechanisms were normally responsible for turning immature human astrocytes into the non-proliferative, inert astrocytes found in adults, could we exploit those same mechanisms to direct proliferating cancer astrocytes into mature, passive, and harmless versions of themselves? This question would fundamentally change the way we think about therapeutic strategies for glioblastoma. But the challenge (until now), has been that we never had reliable methods for studying normal human astrocytes. Our innovative approach uses a new method that we developed called 3D brain organoids, where we grow pieces of human brain tissue by using stem cells generated from skin or blood samples from patients. We propose to use these brain organoids as a way of understanding normal human astrocyte development and then use new genetic tools to screen genes and molecules that could transform immature, proliferative astrocytes into mature, innocuous versions of themselves.
“Steven has all the skills and talents that are crucial to succeed as an independent scientist at Emory and to become a leader in his field. His published work and multidisciplinary expertise have laid the groundwork for his future research investigating the understudied topic of glia. In addition to being extremely talented scientist, he is outstanding teacher, mentor, collaborator, grant writer and communicator.”
Dr. Michelle Monje
"Steve’s productivity has simply been extraordinary. During his tenure in my lab, he first or co-first authored 5 papers, all published by leading journals. He is an extremely intelligent, hardworking and ambitious young scientist who also is extremely generous. The degree of scientific independence, motivation, maturity and creativity that Steven has shown in his research, teaching, and service is truly exceptional, and I believe that very quickly in his own lab he is will establish himself as a leading independent investigator in the field of neuron-glial interactions."
Dr. Ben Barres
PhD mentor at Stanford University