Clinical Focus


  • Molecular Genetic Pathology
  • Pathology

Academic Appointments


Honors & Awards


  • K08 HL119251, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (2016-2021)

Professional Education


  • Medical Education:Duke University (2006) NC
  • Fellowship:Stanford University School of Medicine Registrar (2013) CA
  • Residency:Stanford University School of Medicine Registrar (2014) CA
  • PhD, Stanford University, Bioengineering (2010)
  • BS, Stanford University, Mechanical Engineering (1997)

Current Research and Scholarly Interests


I'm interested in both basic and translational cardiovascular biology, regenerative medicine and genomics. Much of my work merges next generation sequencing (NGS) with iPS cell models to find and characterize primate-specific elements within the noncoding genome (lncRNAs, transposable elements, enhancers). Some of these primate elements appear to regulate heart development, disease and even evolution, and with the enormous growth in pluripotent cell technologies their functions can now be experimentally studied. In translational work, I'm developing custom targeted NGS assays for identifying the DNA mutations that underlie cardiomyopathies and other heart diseases.

All Publications


  • A Rapid, High-Quality, Cost-Effective, Comprehensive and Expandable Targeted Next-Generation Sequencing Assay for Inherited Heart Diseases. Circulation research Wilson, K. D., Shen, P., Fung, E., Karakikes, I., Zhang, A., Inanloorahatloo, K., Odegaard, J., Sallam, K., Davis, R. W., Lui, G. K., Ashley, E. A., Scharfe, C., Wu, J. C. 2015; 117 (7): 603-611

    Abstract

    Thousands of mutations across >50 genes have been implicated in inherited cardiomyopathies. However, options for sequencing this rapidly evolving gene set are limited because many sequencing services and off-the-shelf kits suffer from slow turnaround, inefficient capture of genomic DNA, and high cost. Furthermore, customization of these assays to cover emerging targets that suit individual needs is often expensive and time consuming.We sought to develop a custom high throughput, clinical-grade next-generation sequencing assay for detecting cardiac disease gene mutations with improved accuracy, flexibility, turnaround, and cost.We used double-stranded probes (complementary long padlock probes), an inexpensive and customizable capture technology, to efficiently capture and amplify the entire coding region and flanking intronic and regulatory sequences of 88 genes and 40 microRNAs associated with inherited cardiomyopathies, congenital heart disease, and cardiac development. Multiplexing 11 samples per sequencing run resulted in a mean base pair coverage of 420, of which 97% had >20× coverage and >99% were concordant with known heterozygous single nucleotide polymorphisms. The assay correctly detected germline variants in 24 individuals and revealed several polymorphic regions in miR-499. Total run time was 3 days at an approximate cost of $100 per sample.Accurate, high-throughput detection of mutations across numerous cardiac genes is achievable with complementary long padlock probe technology. Moreover, this format allows facile insertion of additional probes as more cardiomyopathy and congenital heart disease genes are discovered, giving researchers a powerful new tool for DNA mutation detection and discovery.

    View details for DOI 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.115.306723

    View details for PubMedID 26265630

  • Induced pluripotent stem cells. JAMA Wilson, K. D., Wu, J. C. 2015; 313 (16): 1613-1614

    View details for DOI 10.1001/jama.2015.1846

    View details for PubMedID 25919522

  • Dynamic MicroRNA Expression Programs During Cardiac Differentiation of Human Embryonic Stem Cells Role for miR-499 CIRCULATION-CARDIOVASCULAR GENETICS Wilson, K. D., Hu, S., Venkatasubrahmanyam, S., Fu, J., Sun, N., Abilez, O. J., Baugh, J. J., Jia, F., Ghosh, Z., Li, R. A., Butte, A. J., Wu, J. C. 2010; 3 (5): 426-U97

    Abstract

    MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a newly discovered endogenous class of small, noncoding RNAs that play important posttranscriptional regulatory roles by targeting messenger RNAs for cleavage or translational repression. Human embryonic stem cells are known to express miRNAs that are often undetectable in adult organs, and a growing body of evidence has implicated miRNAs as important arbiters of heart development and disease.To better understand the transition between the human embryonic and cardiac "miRNA-omes," we report here the first miRNA profiling study of cardiomyocytes derived from human embryonic stem cells. Analyzing 711 unique miRNAs, we have identified several interesting miRNAs, including miR-1, -133, and -208, that have been previously reported to be involved in cardiac development and disease and that show surprising patterns of expression across our samples. We also identified novel miRNAs, such as miR-499, that are strongly associated with cardiac differentiation and that share many predicted targets with miR-208. Overexpression of miR-499 and -1 resulted in upregulation of important cardiac myosin heavy-chain genes in embryoid bodies; miR-499 overexpression also caused upregulation of the cardiac transcription factor MEF2C.Taken together, our data give significant insight into the regulatory networks that govern human embryonic stem cell differentiation and highlight the ability of miRNAs to perturb, and even control, the genes that are involved in cardiac specification of human embryonic stem cells.

    View details for DOI 10.1161/CIRCGENETICS.109.934281

    View details for Web of Science ID 000283163100006

    View details for PubMedID 20733065

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3057038

  • MicroRNA Profiling of Human-Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells STEM CELLS AND DEVELOPMENT Wilson, K. D., Venkatasubrahmanyam, S., Jia, F., Sun, N., Butte, A. J., Wu, J. C. 2009; 18 (5): 749-757

    Abstract

    MicroRNAs (miRNAs) are a newly discovered endogenous class of small noncoding RNAs that play important posttranscriptional regulatory roles by targeting mRNAs for cleavage or translational repression. Accumulating evidence now supports the importance of miRNAs for human embryonic stem cell (hESC) self-renewal, pluripotency, and differentiation. However, with respect to induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSC), in which embryonic-like cells are reprogrammed from adult cells using defined factors, the role of miRNAs during reprogramming has not been well-characterized. Determining the miRNAs that are associated with reprogramming should yield significant insight into the specific miRNA expression patterns that are required for pluripotency. To address this lack of knowledge, we use miRNA microarrays to compare the "microRNA-omes" of human iPSCs, hESCs, and fetal fibroblasts. We confirm the presence of a signature group of miRNAs that is up-regulated in both iPSCs and hESCs, such as the miR-302 and 17-92 clusters. We also highlight differences between the two pluripotent cell types, as in expression of the miR-371/372/373 cluster. In addition to histone modifications, promoter methylation, transcription factors, and other regulatory control elements, we believe these miRNA signatures of pluripotent cells likely represent another layer of regulatory control over cell fate decisions, and should prove important for the cellular reprogramming field.

    View details for DOI 10.1089/scd.2008.0247

    View details for Web of Science ID 000266237000009

    View details for PubMedID 19284351

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3135181

  • Determining the Pathogenicity of a Genomic Variant of Uncertain Significance Using CRISPR/Cas9 and Human-Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells. Circulation Ma, N., Zhang, J., Itzhaki, I., Zhang, S. L., Chen, H., Haddad, F., Kitani, T., Wilson, K. D., Tian, L., Shrestha, R., Wu, H., Lam, C. K., Sayed, N., Wu, J. C. 2018

    Abstract

    Background -The progression toward low-cost and rapid next-generation sequencing has uncovered a multitude of variants of uncertain significance (VUS) in both patients and asymptomatic "healthy" individuals. A VUS is a rare or novel variant for which disease pathogenicity has not been conclusively demonstrated or excluded, and thus cannot be definitively annotated. VUS, therefore, pose critical clinical interpretation and risk-assessment challenges, and new methods are urgently needed to better characterize their pathogenicity. Methods -To address this challenge and showcase the uncertainty surrounding genomic variant interpretation, we recruited a "healthy" asymptomatic individual, lacking cardiac-disease clinical history, carrying a hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM)-associated genetic variant (NM_000258.2:c.170C>A, NP_000249.1:p.Ala57Asp) in the sarcomeric gene MYL3, reported by the ClinVar database to be "likely pathogenic." Humaninduced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) were derived from the heterozygous VUSMYL3(170C>A) carrier, and their genome was edited using CRISPR/Cas9 to generate 4 isogenic iPSC lines: (1) corrected "healthy" control; (2) homozygous VUSMYL3(170C>A); (3) heterozygous frameshift mutation MYL3(170C>A/fs); and (4) known heterozygous MYL3 pathogenic mutation (NM_000258.2:c.170C>G), at the same nucleotide position as VUSMYL3(170C>A), lines. Extensive assays including measurements of gene expression, sarcomere structure, cell size, contractility, action potentials, and calcium handling were performed on the isogenic iPSC-derived cardiomyocytes (iPSC-CMs). Results -The heterozygous VUSMYL3(170C>A)-iPSC-CMs did not show an HCM phenotype at the gene expression, morphology, or functional levels. Furthermore, genome-edited homozygous VUSMYL3(170C>A)- and frameshift mutation MYL3(170C>A/fs)-iPSC-CMs lines were also asymptomatic, supporting a benign assessment for this particular MYL3 variant. Further assessment of the pathogenic nature of a genome-edited isogenic line carrying a known pathogenic MYL3 mutation, MYL3(170C>G), and a carrier-specific iPSC-CMs line, carrying a MYBPC3(961G>A) HCM variant, demonstrated the ability of this combined platform to provide both pathogenic and benign assessments. Conclusions -Our study illustrates the ability of clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats/Cas9 genome-editing of carrier-specific iPSCs to elucidate both benign and pathogenic HCM functional phenotypes in a carrierspecific manner in a dish. As such, this platform represents a promising VUS riskassessment tool that can be used for assessing HCM-associated VUS specifically, and VUS in general, and thus significantly contribute to the arsenal of precision medicine tools available in this emerging field.

    View details for PubMedID 29914921

  • SETD7 Drives Cardiac Lineage Commitment through Stage-Specific Transcriptional Activation. Cell stem cell Lee, J., Shao, N. Y., Paik, D. T., Wu, H., Guo, H., Termglinchan, V., Churko, J. M., Kim, Y., Kitani, T., Zhao, M. T., Zhang, Y., Wilson, K. D., Karakikes, I., Snyder, M. P., Wu, J. C. 2018; 22 (3): 428–44.e5

    Abstract

    Cardiac development requires coordinated and large-scale rearrangements of the epigenome. The roles and precise mechanisms through which specific epigenetic modifying enzymes control cardiac lineage specification, however, remain unclear. Here we show that the H3K4 methyltransferase SETD7 controls cardiac differentiation by reading H3K36 marks independently of its enzymatic activity. Through chromatin immunoprecipitation sequencing (ChIP-seq), we found that SETD7 targets distinct sets of genes to drive their stage-specific expression during cardiomyocyte differentiation. SETD7 associates with different co-factors at these stages, including SWI/SNF chromatin-remodeling factors during mesodermal formation and the transcription factor NKX2.5 in cardiac progenitors to drive their differentiation. Further analyses revealed that SETD7 binds methylated H3K36 in the bodies of its target genes to facilitate RNA polymerase II (Pol II)-dependent transcription. Moreover, abnormal SETD7 expression impairs functional attributes of terminally differentiated cardiomyocytes. Together, these results reveal how SETD7 acts at sequential steps in cardiac lineage commitment, and they provide insights into crosstalk between dynamic epigenetic marks and chromatin-modifying enzymes.

    View details for PubMedID 29499155

  • A Comprehensive TALEN-Based Knockout Library for Generating Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cell-Based Models for Cardiovascular Diseases. Circulation research Karakikes, I., Termglinchan, V., Cepeda, D. A., Lee, J., Diecke, S., Hendel, A., Itzhaki, I., Ameen, M., Shrestha, R., Wu, H., Ma, N., Shao, N., Seeger, T., Woo, N. A., Wilson, K. D., Matsa, E., Porteus, M. H., Sebastiano, V., Wu, J. C. 2017

    Abstract

    Targeted genetic engineering using programmable nucleases such as transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs) is a valuable tool for precise, site-specific genetic modification in the human genome.The emergence of novel technologies such as human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and nuclease-mediated genome editing represent a unique opportunity for studying cardiovascular diseases in vitro.By incorporating extensive literature and database searches, we designed a collection of TALEN constructs to knockout 88 human genes that are associated with cardiomyopathies and congenital heart diseases. The TALEN pairs were designed to induce double-strand DNA break near the starting codon of each gene that either disrupted the start codon or introduced a frameshift mutation in the early coding region, ensuring faithful gene knockout. We observed that all the constructs were active and disrupted the target locus at high frequencies. To illustrate the utility of the TALEN-mediated knockout technique, 6 individual genes (TNNT2, LMNA/C, TBX5, MYH7, ANKRD1, and NKX2.5) were knocked out with high efficiency and specificity in human iPSCs. By selectively targeting a pathogenic mutation (TNNT2 p.R173W) in patient-specific iPSC-derived cardiac myocytes, we demonstrated that the knockout strategy ameliorates the dilated cardiomyopathy phenotype in vitro. In addition, we modeled the Holt-Oram syndrome in iPSC-cardiac myocytes in vitro and uncovered novel pathways regulated by TBX5 in human cardiac myocyte development.Collectively, our study illustrates the powerful combination of iPSCs and genome editing technologies for understanding the biological function of genes, and the pathological significance of genetic variants in human cardiovascular diseases. The methods, strategies, constructs, and iPSC lines developed in this study provide a validated, readily available resource for cardiovascular research.

    View details for DOI 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.116.309948

    View details for PubMedID 28246128

  • LincRNAs: Systemic Computational Identification and Functional Exploration CURRENT BIOINFORMATICS Hu, H., Wilson, K. D., Zhong, S., He, C. 2017; 12 (1): 34-42
  • Systematic Characterization of Long Noncoding RNAs Reveals the Contrasting Coordination of Cis- and Trans-Molecular Regulation in Human Fetal and Adult Hearts CIRCULATION-CARDIOVASCULAR GENETICS He, C., Hu, H., Wilson, K. D., Wu, H., Feng, J., Xia, S., Churko, J., Qu, K., Chang, H. Y., Wu, J. C. 2016; 9 (2): 110-118

    Abstract

    -The molecular regulation of heart development is regulated by cis- and trans- factors acting on the genome and epigenome. As a class of important regulatory RNAs, the role of long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) in human heart development is still poorly understood. Furthermore, factors that interact with lncRNAs in this process are not well characterized.-Utilizing RNA sequencing, we systematically define the contrasting lncRNA expression patterns between fetal and adult heart. We report that lncRNAs up-regulated in adult versus fetal heart have different sequence features and distributions. For example, the adult heart expresses more sense lncRNAs compared to fetal heart. We also report the co-expression of lncRNAs and neighboring coding genes that have important functions in heart development. Importantly, the regulation of lncRNA expression during fetal to adult heart development appears to be due in part to the coordination of specific developmental epigenetic modifications such as H3K4me1 and H3k4me3. The expression of promoter-associated lncRNAs in adult and fetal heart also appears to be related to these epigenetic states. Finally, transcription factor binding analysis suggests that lncRNAs are directly regulating cardiac gene expression during development.-We provide a systematic analysis of lncRNA control of heart development that gives clues to the roles that specific lncRNAs play in fetal and adult hearts.

    View details for DOI 10.1161/CIRCGENETICS.115.001264

    View details for PubMedID 26896382

  • The role of Hath6, a newly identified shear-stress-responsive transcription factor, in endothelial cell differentiation and function JOURNAL OF CELL SCIENCE Fang, F., Wasserman, S. M., Torres-Vazquez, J., Weinstein, B., Cao, F., Li, Z., Wilson, K. D., Yue, W., Wu, J. C., Xie, X., Pei, X. 2014; 127 (7): 1428-1440

    Abstract

    The key regulators of endothelial differentiation that is induced by shear stress are mostly unclear. Human atonal homolog 6 (Hath6 or ATOH8) is an endothelial-selective and shear-stress-responsive transcription factor. In this study, we sought to elucidate the role of Hath6 in the endothelial specification of embryonic stem cells. In a stepwise human embryonic stem cell to endothelial cell (hESC-EC) induction system, Hath6 mRNA was upregulated synchronously with endothelial determination. Subsequently, gain-of-function and loss-of-function studies of Hath6 were performed using the hESC-EC induction model and endothelial cell lines. The overexpression of Hath6, which mimics shear stress treatment, resulted in an increased CD45(-)CD31(+)KDR(+) population, a higher tubular-structure-formation capacity and increased endothelial-specific gene expression. By contrast, the knockdown of Hath6 mRNA markedly decreased endothelial differentiation. Hath6 also facilitated the maturation of endothelial cells in terms of endothelial gene expression, tubular-structure formation and cell migration. We further demonstrated that the gene encoding eNOS is a direct target of Hath6 through a reporter system assay and western blot analysis, and that the inhibition of eNOS diminishes hESC-EC differentiation. These results suggest that eNOS plays a key role in linking Hath6 to the endothelial phenotype. Further in situ hybridization studies in zebrafish and mouse embryos indicated that homologs of Hath6 are involved in vasculogenesis and angiogenesis. This study provides the first confirmation of the positive impact of Hath6 on human embryonic endothelial differentiation and function. Moreover, we present a potential signaling pathway through which shear stress stimulates endothelial differentiation.

    View details for DOI 10.1242/jcs.136358

    View details for Web of Science ID 000333905100007

    View details for PubMedID 24463812

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3970556

  • MicroRNA-302 Increases Reprogramming Efficiency via Repression of NR2F2 STEM CELLS Hu, S., Wilson, K. D., Ghosh, Z., Han, L., Wang, Y., Lan, F., Ransohoff, K. J., Burridge, P., Wu, J. C. 2013; 31 (2): 259-268

    Abstract

    MicroRNAs (miRNAs) have emerged as critical regulators of gene expression through translational inhibition and RNA decay and have been implicated in the regulation of cellular differentiation, proliferation, angiogenesis, and apoptosis. In this study, we analyzed global miRNA and mRNA microarrays to predict novel miRNA-mRNA interactions in human embryonic stem cells and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). In particular, we demonstrate a regulatory feedback loop between the miR-302 cluster and two transcription factors, NR2F2 and OCT4. Our data show high expression of miR-302 and OCT4 in pluripotent cells, while NR2F2 is expressed exclusively in differentiated cells. Target analysis predicts that NR2F2 is a direct target of miR-302, which we experimentally confirm by reporter luciferase assays and real-time polymerase chain reaction. We also demonstrate that NR2F2 directly inhibits the activity of the OCT4 promoter and thus diminishes the positive feedback loop between OCT4 and miR-302. Importantly, higher reprogramming efficiencies were obtained when we reprogrammed human adipose-derived stem cells into iPSCs using four factors (KLF4, C-MYC, OCT4, and SOX2) plus miR-302 (this reprogramming cocktail is hereafter referred to as "KMOS3") when compared to using four factors ("KMOS"). Furthermore, shRNA knockdown of NR2F2 mimics the over-expression of miR-302 by also enhancing reprogramming efficiency. Interestingly, we were unable to generate iPSCs from miR-302a/b/c/d alone, which is in contrast to previous publications that have reported that miR-302 by itself can reprogram human skin cancer cells and human hair follicle cells. Taken together, these findings demonstrate that miR-302 inhibits NR2F2 and promotes pluripotency through indirect positive regulation of OCT4. This feedback loop represents an important new mechanism for understanding and inducing pluripotency in somatic cells.

    View details for DOI 10.1002/stem.1278

    View details for Web of Science ID 000314873000006

    View details for PubMedID 23136034

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3572288

  • Distinct Roles of MicroRNA-1 and-499 in Ventricular Specification and Functional Maturation of Human Embryonic Stem Cell-Derived Cardiomyocytes PLOS ONE Fu, J., Rushing, S. N., Lieu, D. K., Chan, C. W., Kong, C., Geng, L., Wilson, K. D., Chiamvimonvat, N., Boheler, K. R., Wu, J. C., Keller, G., Hajjar, R. J., Li, R. A. 2011; 6 (11)

    Abstract

    MicroRNAs (miRs) negatively regulate transcription and are important determinants of normal heart development and heart failure pathogenesis. Despite the significant knowledge gained in mouse studies, their functional roles in human (h) heart remain elusive.We hypothesized that miRs that figure prominently in cardiac differentiation are differentially expressed in differentiating, developing, and terminally mature human cardiomyocytes (CMs). As a first step, we mapped the miR profiles of human (h) embryonic stem cells (ESCs), hESC-derived (hE), fetal (hF) and adult (hA) ventricular (V) CMs. 63 miRs were differentially expressed between hESCs and hE-VCMs. Of these, 29, including the miR-302 and -371/372/373 clusters, were associated with pluripotency and uniquely expressed in hESCs. Of the remaining miRs differentially expressed in hE-VCMs, 23 continued to express highly in hF- and hA-VCMs, with miR-1, -133, and -499 displaying the largest fold differences; others such as miR-let-7a, -let-7b, -26b, -125a and -143 were non-cardiac specific. Functionally, LV-miR-499 transduction of hESC-derived cardiovascular progenitors significantly increased the yield of hE-VCMs (to 72% from 48% of control; p<0.05) and contractile protein expression without affecting their electrophysiological properties (p>0.05). By contrast, LV-miR-1 transduction did not bias the yield (p>0.05) but decreased APD and hyperpolarized RMP/MDP in hE-VCMs due to increased I(to), I(Ks) and I(Kr), and decreased I(f) (p<0.05) as signs of functional maturation. Also, LV-miR-1 but not -499 augmented the immature Ca(2+) transient amplitude and kinetics. Molecular pathway analyses were performed for further insights.We conclude that miR-1 and -499 play differential roles in cardiac differentiation of hESCs in a context-dependent fashion. While miR-499 promotes ventricular specification of hESCs, miR-1 serves to facilitate electrophysiological maturation.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0027417

    View details for Web of Science ID 000297555400043

    View details for PubMedID 22110643

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3217986

  • Dissecting the Oncogenic and Tumorigenic Potential of Differentiated Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells and Human Embryonic Stem Cells CANCER RESEARCH Ghosh, Z., Huang, M., Hu, S., Wilson, K. D., Dey, D., Wu, J. C. 2011; 71 (14): 5030-5039

    Abstract

    Pluripotent stem cells, both human embryonic stem cells (hESC) and human-induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC), can give rise to multiple cell types and hence have tremendous potential for regenerative therapies. However, the tumorigenic potential of these cells remains a great concern, as reflected in the formation of teratomas by transplanted pluripotent cells. In clinical practice, most pluripotent cells will be differentiated into useful therapeutic cell types such as neuronal, cardiac, or endothelial cells prior to human transplantation, drastically reducing their tumorigenic potential. Our work investigated the extent to which these differentiated stem cell derivatives are truly devoid of oncogenic potential. In this study, we analyzed the gene expression patterns from three sets of hiPSC- and hESC-derivatives and the corresponding primary cells, and compared their transcriptomes with those of five different types of cancer. Our analysis revealed a significant gene expression overlap of the hiPSC- and hESC-derivatives with cancer, whereas the corresponding primary cells showed minimum overlap. Real-time quantitative PCR analysis of a set of cancer-related genes (selected on the basis of rigorous functional and pathway analyses) confirmed our results. Overall, our findings suggested that pluripotent stem cell derivatives may still bear oncogenic properties even after differentiation, and additional stringent functional assays to purify these cells should be done before they can be used for regenerative therapy.

    View details for DOI 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-10-4402

    View details for Web of Science ID 000292763700029

    View details for PubMedID 21646469

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC3138859

  • Single cell transcriptional profiling reveals heterogeneity of human induced pluripotent stem cells JOURNAL OF CLINICAL INVESTIGATION Narsinh, K. H., Sun, N., Sanchez-Freire, V., Lee, A. S., Almeida, P., Hu, S., Jan, T., Wilson, K. D., Leong, D., Rosenberg, J., Yao, M., Robbins, R. C., Wu, J. C. 2011; 121 (3): 1217-1221

    Abstract

    Human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) and human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) are promising candidate cell sources for regenerative medicine. However, despite the common ability of hiPSCs and hESCs to differentiate into all 3 germ layers, their functional equivalence at the single cell level remains to be demonstrated. Moreover, single cell heterogeneity amongst stem cell populations may underlie important cell fate decisions. Here, we used single cell analysis to resolve the gene expression profiles of 362 hiPSCs and hESCs for an array of 42 genes that characterize the pluripotent and differentiated states. Comparison between single hESCs and single hiPSCs revealed markedly more heterogeneity in gene expression levels in the hiPSCs, suggesting that hiPSCs occupy an alternate, less stable pluripotent state. hiPSCs also displayed slower growth kinetics and impaired directed differentiation as compared with hESCs. Our results suggest that caution should be exercised before assuming that hiPSCs occupy a pluripotent state equivalent to that of hESCs, particularly when producing differentiated cells for regenerative medicine aims.

    View details for DOI 10.1172/JCI44635

    View details for PubMedID 21317531

  • Human germ cell differentiation from fetal- and adult-derived induced pluripotent stem cells HUMAN MOLECULAR GENETICS Panula, S., Medrano, J. V., Kee, K., Bergstrom, R., Ha Nam Nguyen, N. N., Byers, B., Wilson, K. D., Wu, J. C., Simon, C., Hovatta, O., Pera, R. A. 2011; 20 (4): 752-762

    Abstract

    Historically, our understanding of molecular genetic aspects of human germ cell development has been limited, at least in part due to inaccessibility of early stages of human development to experimentation. However, the derivation of pluripotent stem cells may provide the necessary human genetic system to study germ cell development. In this study, we compared the potential of human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), derived from adult and fetal somatic cells to form primordial and meiotic germ cells, relative to human embryonic stem cells. We found that ∼5% of human iPSCs differentiated to primordial germ cells (PGCs) following induction with bone morphogenetic proteins. Furthermore, we observed that PGCs expressed green fluorescent protein from a germ cell-specific reporter and were enriched for the expression of endogenous germ cell-specific proteins and mRNAs. In response to the overexpression of intrinsic regulators, we also observed that iPSCs formed meiotic cells with extensive synaptonemal complexes and post-meiotic haploid cells with a similar pattern of ACROSIN staining as observed in human spermatids. These results indicate that human iPSCs derived from reprogramming of adult somatic cells can form germline cells. This system may provide a useful model for molecular genetic studies of human germline formation and pathology and a novel platform for clinical studies and potential therapeutical applications.

    View details for DOI 10.1093/hmg/ddq520

    View details for PubMedID 21131292

  • Effects of Ionizing Radiation on Self-Renewal and Pluripotency of Human Embryonic Stem Cells CANCER RESEARCH Wilson, K. D., Sun, N., Huang, M., Zhang, W. Y., Lee, A. S., Li, Z., Wang, S. X., Wu, J. C. 2010; 70 (13): 5539-5548

    Abstract

    Human embryonic stem cells (hESC) present a novel platform for in vitro investigation of the early embryonic cellular response to ionizing radiation. Thus far, no study has analyzed the genome-wide transcriptional response to ionizing radiation in hESCs, nor has any study assessed their ability to form teratomas, the definitive test of pluripotency. In this study, we use microarrays to analyze the global gene expression changes in hESCs after low-dose (0.4 Gy), medium-dose (2 Gy), and high-dose (4 Gy) irradiation. We identify genes and pathways at each radiation dose that are involved in cell death, p53 signaling, cell cycling, cancer, embryonic and organ development, and others. Using Gene Set Enrichment Analysis, we also show that the expression of a comprehensive set of core embryonic transcription factors is not altered by radiation at any dose. Transplantation of irradiated hESCs to immune-deficient mice results in teratoma formation from hESCs irradiated at all doses, definitive proof of pluripotency. Further, using a bioluminescence imaging technique, we have found that irradiation causes hESCs to initially die after transplantation, but the surviving cells quickly recover by 2 weeks to levels similar to control. To conclude, we show that similar to somatic cells, irradiated hESCs suffer significant death and apoptosis after irradiation. However, they continue to remain pluripotent and are able to form all three embryonic germ layers. Studies such as this will help define the limits for radiation exposure for pregnant women and also radiotracer reporter probes for tracking cellular regenerative therapies.

    View details for DOI 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-09-4238

    View details for PubMedID 20530673

  • A nonviral minicircle vector for deriving human iPS cells NATURE METHODS Jia, F., Wilson, K. D., Sun, N., Gupta, D. M., Huang, M., Li, Z., Panetta, N. J., Chen, Z. Y., Robbins, R. C., Kay, M. A., Longaker, M. T., Wu, J. C. 2010; 7 (3): 197-U46

    Abstract

    Owing to the risk of insertional mutagenesis, viral transduction has been increasingly replaced by nonviral methods to generate induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs). We report the use of 'minicircle' DNA, a vector type that is free of bacterial DNA and capable of high expression in cells, for this purpose. Here we use a single minicircle vector to generate transgene-free iPSCs from adult human adipose stem cells.

    View details for DOI 10.1038/NMETH.1426

    View details for Web of Science ID 000275058200018

    View details for PubMedID 20139967

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC2892897

  • Persistent Donor Cell Gene Expression among Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells Contributes to Differences with Human Embryonic Stem Cells PLOS ONE Ghosh, Z., Wilson, K. D., Wu, Y., Hu, S., Quertermous, T., Wu, J. C. 2010; 5 (2)

    Abstract

    Human induced pluripotent stem cells (hiPSCs) generated by de-differentiation of adult somatic cells offer potential solutions for the ethical issues surrounding human embryonic stem cells (hESCs), as well as their immunologic rejection after cellular transplantation. However, although hiPSCs have been described as "embryonic stem cell-like", these cells have a distinct gene expression pattern compared to hESCs, making incomplete reprogramming a potential pitfall. It is unclear to what degree the difference in tissue of origin may contribute to these gene expression differences. To answer these important questions, a careful transcriptional profiling analysis is necessary to investigate the exact reprogramming state of hiPSCs, as well as analysis of the impression, if any, of the tissue of origin on the resulting hiPSCs. In this study, we compare the gene profiles of hiPSCs derived from fetal fibroblasts, neonatal fibroblasts, adipose stem cells, and keratinocytes to their corresponding donor cells and hESCs. Our analysis elucidates the overall degree of reprogramming within each hiPSC line, as well as the "distance" between each hiPSC line and its donor cell. We further identify genes that have a similar mode of regulation in hiPSCs and their corresponding donor cells compared to hESCs, allowing us to specify core sets of donor genes that continue to be expressed in each hiPSC line. We report that residual gene expression of the donor cell type contributes significantly to the differences among hiPSCs and hESCs, and adds to the incompleteness in reprogramming. Specifically, our analysis reveals that fetal fibroblast-derived hiPSCs are closer to hESCs, followed by adipose, neonatal fibroblast, and keratinocyte-derived hiPSCs.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0008975

    View details for Web of Science ID 000274209700007

    View details for PubMedID 20126639

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC2813859

  • Functional and Transcriptional Characterization of Human Embryonic Stem Cell-Derived Endothelial Cells for Treatment of Myocardial Infarction PLOS ONE Li, Z., Wilson, K. D., Smith, B., Kraft, D. L., Jia, F., Huang, M., Xie, X., Robbins, R. C., Gambhir, S. S., Weissman, I. L., Wu, J. C. 2009; 4 (12)

    Abstract

    Differentiation of human embryonic stem cells into endothelial cells (hESC-ECs) has the potential to provide an unlimited source of cells for novel transplantation therapies of ischemic diseases by supporting angiogenesis and vasculogenesis. However, the endothelial differentiation efficiency of the conventional embryoid body (EB) method is low while the 2-dimensional method of co-culturing with mouse embryonic fibroblasts (MEFs) require animal product, both of which can limit the future clinical application of hESC-ECs. Moreover, to fully understand the beneficial effects of stem cell therapy, investigators must be able to track the functional biology and physiology of transplanted cells in living subjects over time.In this study, we developed an extracellular matrix (ECM) culture system for increasing endothelial differentiation and free from contaminating animal cells. We investigated the transcriptional changes that occur during endothelial differentiation of hESCs using whole genome microarray, and compared to human umbilical vein endothelial cells (HUVECs). We also showed functional vascular formation by hESC-ECs in a mouse dorsal window model. Moreover, our study is the first so far to transplant hESC-ECs in a myocardial infarction model and monitor cell fate using molecular imaging methods.Taken together, we report a more efficient method for derivation of hESC-ECs that express appropriate patterns of endothelial genes, form functional vessels in vivo, and improve cardiac function. These studies suggest that hESC-ECs may provide a novel therapy for ischemic heart disease in the future.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0008443

    View details for Web of Science ID 000273180200002

    View details for PubMedID 20046878

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC2795856

  • Current-Controlled Electrical Point-Source Stimulation of Embryonic Stem Cells CELLULAR AND MOLECULAR BIOENGINEERING Chen, M. Q., Xie, X., Wilson, K. D., Sun, N., Wu, J. C., Giovangrandi, L., Kovacs, G. T. 2009; 2 (4): 625-635

    Abstract

    Stem cell therapy is emerging as a promising clinical approach for myocardial repair. However, the interactions between the graft and host, resulting in inconsistent levels of integration, remain largely unknown. In particular, the influence of electrical activity of the surrounding host tissue on graft differentiation and integration is poorly understood. In order to study this influence under controlled conditions, an in vitro system was developed. Electrical pacing of differentiating murine embryonic stem (ES) cells was performed at physiologically relevant levels through direct contact with microelectrodes, simulating the local activation resulting from contact with surrounding electroactive tissue. Cells stimulated with a charged balanced voltage-controlled current source for up to 4 days were analyzed for cardiac and ES cell gene expression using real-time PCR, immunofluorescent imaging, and genome microarray analysis. Results varied between ES cells from three progressive differentiation stages and stimulation amplitudes (nine conditions), indicating a high sensitivity to electrical pacing. Conditions that maximally encouraged cardiomyocyte differentiation were found with Day 7 EBs stimulated at 30 microA. The resulting gene expression included a sixfold increase in troponin-T and a twofold increase in beta-MHCwithout increasing ES cell proliferation marker Nanog. Subsequent genome microarray analysis revealed broad transcriptome changes after pacing. Concurrent to upregulation of mature gene programs including cardiovascular, neurological, and musculoskeletal systems is the apparent downregulation of important self-renewal and pluripotency genes. Overall, a robust system capable of long-term stimulation of ES cells is demonstrated, and specific conditions are outlined that most encourage cardiomyocyte differentiation.

    View details for DOI 10.1007/s12195-009-0096-0

    View details for Web of Science ID 000272671600015

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC2905819

  • Feeder-free derivation of induced pluripotent stem cells from adult human adipose stem cells PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA Sun, N., Panetta, N. J., Gupta, D. M., Wilson, K. D., Lee, A., Jia, F., Hu, S., Cherry, A. M., Robbins, R. C., Longaker, M. T., Wu, J. C. 2009; 106 (37): 15720-15725

    Abstract

    Ectopic expression of transcription factors can reprogram somatic cells to a pluripotent state. However, most of the studies used skin fibroblasts as the starting population for reprogramming, which usually take weeks for expansion from a single biopsy. We show here that induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells can be generated from adult human adipose stem cells (hASCs) freshly isolated from patients. Furthermore, iPS cells can be readily derived from adult hASCs in a feeder-free condition, thereby eliminating potential variability caused by using feeder cells. hASCs can be safely and readily isolated from adult humans in large quantities without extended time for expansion, are easy to maintain in culture, and therefore represent an ideal autologous source of cells for generating individual-specific iPS cells.

    View details for DOI 10.1073/pnas.0908450106

    View details for Web of Science ID 000269806600040

    View details for PubMedID 19805220

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC2739869

  • nAChRs Mediate Human Embryonic Stem Cell-Derived Endothelial Cells: Proliferation, Apoptosis, and Angiogenesis PLOS ONE Yu, J., Huang, N. F., Wilson, K. D., Velotta, J. B., Huang, M., Li, Z., Lee, A., Robbins, R. C., Cooke, J. P., Wu, J. C. 2009; 4 (9)

    Abstract

    Many patients with ischemic heart disease have cardiovascular risk factors such as cigarette smoking. We tested the effect of nicotine (a key component of cigarette smoking) on the therapeutic effects of human embryonic stem cell-derived endothelial cells (hESC-ECs).To induce endothelial cell differentiation, undifferentiated hESCs (H9 line) underwent 4-day floating EB formation and 8-day outgrowth differentiation in EGM-2 media. After 12 days, CD31(+) cells (13.7+/-2.5%) were sorted by FACScan and maintained in EGM-2 media for further differentiation. After isolation, these hESC-ECs expressed endothelial specific markers such as vWF (96.3+/-1.4%), CD31 (97.2+/-2.5%), and VE-cadherin (93.7+/-2.8%), form vascular-like channels, and incorporated DiI-labeled acetylated low-density lipoprotein (DiI-Ac-LDL). Afterward, 5x10(6) hESC-ECs treated for 24 hours with nicotine (10(-8) M) or PBS (as control) were injected into the hearts of mice undergoing LAD ligation followed by administration for two weeks of vehicle or nicotine (100 microg/ml) in the drinking water. Surprisingly, bioluminescence imaging (BLI) showed significant improvement in the survival of transplanted hESC-ECs in the nicotine treated group at 6 weeks. Postmortem analysis confirmed increased presence of small capillaries in the infarcted zones. Finally, in vitro mechanistic analysis suggests activation of the MAPK and Akt pathways following activation of nicotinic acetylcholine receptors (nAChRs).This study shows for the first time that short-term systemic administrations of low dose nicotine can improve the survival of transplanted hESC-ECs, and enhance their angiogenic effects in vivo. Furthermore, activation of nAChRs has anti-apoptotic, angiogenic, and proliferative effects through MAPK and Akt signaling pathways.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0007040

    View details for Web of Science ID 000269796500020

    View details for PubMedID 19753305

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC2737633

  • Bioluminescence reporter gene imaging of human embryonic stem cell survival, proliferation, and fate. Methods in molecular biology (Clifton, N.J.) Wilson, K. D., Huang, M., Wu, J. C. 2009; 574: 87-103

    Abstract

    The discovery of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) has dramatically increased the tools available to medical scientists interested in regenerative medicine. However, direct injection of hESCs, and cells differentiated from hESCs, into living organisms has thus far been hampered by significant cell death, teratoma formation, and host immune rejection. Understanding the in vivo hESC behavior after transplantation requires novel imaging techniques to longitudinally monitor hESC localization, proliferation, and viability. Molecular imaging, and specifically bioluminescent reporter gene imaging, has given investigators a high-throughput, inexpensive, and sensitive means for tracking in vivo cell proliferation over days, weeks, and even months. This advancement has significantly increased the understanding of the spatiotemporal kinetics of hESC engraftment and proliferation in living subjects. In this chapter, the specific materials and methods needed for tracking stem cell proliferation with bioluminescence imaging will be described.

    View details for DOI 10.1007/978-1-60327-321-3_8

    View details for PubMedID 19685302

  • Transcriptional and Functional Profiling of Human Embryonic Stem Cell-Derived Cardiomyocytes PLOS ONE Cao, F., Wagner, R. A., Wilson, K. D., Xie, X., Fu, J., Drukker, M., Lee, A., Li, R. A., Gambhir, S. S., Weissman, I. L., Robbins, R. C., Wu, J. C. 2008; 3 (10)

    Abstract

    Human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) can serve as a potentially limitless source of cells that may enable regeneration of diseased tissue and organs. Here we investigate the use of human embryonic stem cell-derived cardiomyocytes (hESC-CMs) in promoting recovery from cardiac ischemia reperfusion injury in a mouse model. Using microarrays, we have described the hESC-CM transcriptome within the spectrum of changes that occur between undifferentiated hESCs and fetal heart cells. The hESC-CMs expressed cardiomyocyte genes at levels similar to those found in 20-week fetal heart cells, making this population a good source of potential replacement cells in vivo. Echocardiographic studies showed significant improvement in heart function by 8 weeks after transplantation. Finally, we demonstrate long-term engraftment of hESC-CMs by using molecular imaging to track cellular localization, survival, and proliferation in vivo. Taken together, global gene expression profiling of hESC differentiation enables a systems-based analysis of the biological processes, networks, and genes that drive hESC fate decisions, and studies such as this will serve as the foundation for future clinical applications of stem cell therapies.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0003474

    View details for Web of Science ID 000265126100005

    View details for PubMedID 18941512

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC2565131

  • Transcriptome Alteration in the Diabetic Heart by Rosiglitazone: Implications for Cardiovascular Mortality PLOS ONE Wilson, K. D., Li, Z., Wagner, R., Yue, P., Tsao, P., Nestorova, G., Huang, M., Hirschberg, D. L., Yock, P. G., Quertermous, T., Wu, J. C. 2008; 3 (7)

    Abstract

    Recently, the type 2 diabetes medication, rosiglitazone, has come under scrutiny for possibly increasing the risk of cardiac disease and death. To investigate the effects of rosiglitazone on the diabetic heart, we performed cardiac transcriptional profiling and imaging studies of a murine model of type 2 diabetes, the C57BL/KLS-lepr(db)/lepr(db) (db/db) mouse.We compared cardiac gene expression profiles from three groups: untreated db/db mice, db/db mice after rosiglitazone treatment, and non-diabetic db/+ mice. Prior to sacrifice, we also performed cardiac magnetic resonance (CMR) and echocardiography. As expected, overall the db/db gene expression signature was markedly different from control, but to our surprise was not significantly reversed with rosiglitazone. In particular, we have uncovered a number of rosiglitazone modulated genes and pathways that may play a role in the pathophysiology of the increase in cardiac mortality as seen in several recent meta-analyses. Specifically, the cumulative upregulation of (1) a matrix metalloproteinase gene that has previously been implicated in plaque rupture, (2) potassium channel genes involved in membrane potential maintenance and action potential generation, and (3) sphingolipid and ceramide metabolism-related genes, together give cause for concern over rosiglitazone's safety. Lastly, in vivo imaging studies revealed minimal differences between rosiglitazone-treated and untreated db/db mouse hearts, indicating that rosiglitazone's effects on gene expression in the heart do not immediately turn into detectable gross functional changes.This study maps the genomic expression patterns in the hearts of the db/db murine model of diabetes and illustrates the impact of rosiglitazone on these patterns. The db/db gene expression signature was markedly different from control, and was not reversed with rosiglitazone. A smaller number of unique and interesting changes in gene expression were noted with rosiglitazone treatment. Further study of these genes and molecular pathways will provide important insights into the cardiac decompensation associated with both diabetes and rosiglitazone treatment.

    View details for DOI 10.1371/journal.pone.0002609

    View details for Web of Science ID 000264065800015

    View details for PubMedID 18648539

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC2481284

  • In vitro and in vivo bioluminescence reporter gene imaging of human embryonic stem cells. Journal of visualized experiments : JoVE Wilson, K., Yu, J., Lee, A., Wu, J. C. 2008

    Abstract

    The discovery of human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) has dramatically increased the tools available to medical scientists interested in regenerative medicine. However, direct injection of hESCs, and cells differentiated from hESCs, into living organisms has thus far been hampered by significant cell death, teratoma formation, and host immune rejection. Understanding the in vivo hESC behavior after transplantation requires novel imaging techniques to longitudinally monitor hESC localization, proliferation, and viability. Molecular imaging has given investigators a high-throughput, inexpensive, and sensitive means for tracking in vivo cell proliferation over days, weeks, and even months. This advancement has significantly increased the understanding of the spatio-temporal kinetics of hESC engraftment, proliferation, and teratoma-formation in living subjects. A major advance in molecular imaging has been the extension of noninvasive reporter gene assays from molecular and cellular biology into in vivo multi-modality imaging platforms. These reporter genes, under control of engineered promoters and enhancers that take advantage of the host cell s transcriptional machinery, are introduced into cells using a variety of vector and non-vector methods. Once in the cell, reporter genes can be transcribed either constitutively or only under specific biological or cellular conditions, depending on the type of promoter used. Transcription and translation of reporter genes into bioactive proteins is then detected with sensitive, noninvasive instrumentation (e.g., CCD cameras) using signal-generating probes such as D-luciferin. To avoid the need for excitatory light to track stem cells in vivo as is required for fluorescence imaging, bioluminescence reporter gene imaging systems require only an exogenously administered probe to induce light emission. Firefly luciferase, derived from the firefly Photinus pyralis, encodes an enzyme that catalyzes D-luciferin to the optically active metabolite, oxyluciferin. Optical activity can then be monitored with an external CCD camera. Stably transduced cells that carry the reporter construct within their chromosomal DNA will pass the reporter construct DNA to daughter cells, allowing for longitudinal monitoring of hESC survival and proliferation in vivo. Furthermore, because expression of the reporter gene product is required for signal generation, only viable parent and daughter cells will create bioluminescence signal; apoptotic or dead cells will not. In this video, the specific materials and methods needed for tracking stem cell proliferation and teratoma formation with bioluminescence imaging will be described.

    View details for DOI 10.3791/740

    View details for PubMedID 19066577

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC2582851

  • Integration of genomics, proteomics, and imaging for cardiac stem cell therapy EUROPEAN JOURNAL OF NUCLEAR MEDICINE AND MOLECULAR IMAGING Chun, H. J., Wilson, K. O., Huang, M., Wu, J. C. 2007; 34: S20-S26

    Abstract

    Cardiac stem cell therapy is beginning to mature as a valid treatment for heart disease. As more clinical trials utilizing stem cells emerge, it is imperative to establish the mechanisms by which stem cells confer benefit in cardiac diseases. In this paper, we review three methods - molecular cellular imaging, gene expression profiling, and proteomic analysis - that can be integrated to provide further insights into the role of this emerging therapy.

    View details for DOI 10.1007/s00259-007-0437-y

    View details for Web of Science ID 000253384100003

    View details for PubMedID 17464506