*Dr. Kalpana Mujoo
Research work with stem cells
I have been involved in biomedical research for more than 20 years. However, I started working with stem cells approximately three and a half years ago. It is an exciting yet challenging area of research. Our primary goal in the laboratory is to determine how undifferentiated (unspecialized) stem cells can be differentiated into more specialized cells such as heart cells and the molecular events leading to this switch. There are many different types of signaling pathways that are involved in either maintaining the stem cells in the undifferentiated stage or are involved in differentiating stem cells into various lineages. We are conducting research on one such signaling pathway – the Nitric Oxide pathway. Nitric Oxide (NO) is a colorless, odorless gas and an uncharged free radical that is involved in number of physiological processes such as smooth muscle relaxation, neurotransmission, inhibition of platelet aggregation and host defense mechanisms. The overall goal of our project is study the role of Nitric Oxide-cGMP pathway in proliferation and differentiation of stem cells into cells of various lineages such as myocardial cells (heart cells).
At the present time, we are using cocktails of various agents to differentiate the undifferentiated cells into myocardial cells for future regenerative medicine for diseases such as myocardial infarction (heart attack). I have honor and privilege to conduct these studies with Dr. Ferid Murad, M.D., Ph.D. 1998 Nobel Laureate in Physiology or Medicine, who is a Director Emeritus and Director of Cell Signaling Center at the Institute of Molecular Medicine. Dr. Murad discovered the mechanism of action of nitroglycerine, a drug that has been used in clinic for more than 100 years for chest pain (angina pectoris).
Hemeatopoetic stem cells (blood stem cells) are the precursor cells for all the blood cells. These stem cells are the only type of stem cells currently used for cell-based therapy in humans. Advanced techniques are currently being used to collect blood stem cells from bone-marrow (doctors have used bone-marrow transplant for last 40 years) for the treatment of leukemia, lymphoma and other inherited blood disorders.
What are the qualities required to be a researcher: Utmost curiosity to unravel the unknown. At the same time, you must have enough patience to see the project through and willingness to work long and hard hours to achieve the goals.
Advice or Mantra for aspiring researchers: Patience, hardwork, and dedication.
*Kalpana (Mujoo) Singh, PhD is a faculty member at the Brown Foundation Institute of Molecular Medicine for the prevention of human diseases and an adjunct faculty member of the Department of Integrative Biology and Pharmacology at the UT Health Science Center at Houston. Kalpana received her undergraduate and Masters degrees from Lucknow University and her doctoral degree in Biochemistry at the Central Drug Research Institute in India. She pursued her postdoctoral training at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, CA, in the area of Biochemistry, Cancer Biology and Tumor Immunology. During her postdoctoral training she developed a number of monoclonal antibodies against well-characterized tumor associated antigens and one such antibody has been used in multi-center clinical trials for human neuroblastoma (child hood brain tumor) and melanoma (skin cancer) in the USA and Germany. During her term at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Dr. Mujoo was involved in conducting research in basic cancer biology and experimental therapeutics area. She focused her efforts in elucidating the molecular mechanisms of various anti-cancer agents and studying their therapeutic potential in various cancer models.
Her current research focuses on delineating the role of nitric oxide (NO), a colorless, odorless gas and cyclic GMP (second messenger) signaling in proliferation, differentiation, and self-renewal of mouse and human embryonic stem cells and adult stem cells. In addition, she is interested in elucidating the role of NO signaling pathway in various human cancers. Dr. Mujoo is a member of International Society of Stem Cell Research and American Association for Advancement of Sciences. She has also been a past member of the American Association for Cancer Research.
Kalpana was born in Srinagar, Kashmir and brought up in Lucknow, where her father was a university Professor. She is married to Dr. Balraj Singh who received his Ph.D. in Life Sciences from JNU, New Delhi. She is a mother of two teenage boys (19 and 14) and is blessed with wonderful family and friends who have touched her life in many ways.
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