Disease and injury strike every organ in our body, killing and damaging tissues that perform vital functions. How to replenish the lost tissues and repair organ function is the outstanding question in regenerative medicine. Our laboratory pioneered a new path for tissue regeneration. Based on principles of development, we identified master regulators that dictate the formation of specific tissues (pancreatic islets and intestinal mucosa, for example) and by modulating the expression of these master genes, one can remake, or reprogram existing adult tissues from one type to another, thereby regenerating medically important tissues.
We have used a cocktail of pancreatic islet master regulators to induce human stomach stem cells to differentiate into Gastric INsulin-Secreting (GINS) organoids resembling pancreatic islets and capable of regulating blood sugar levels. We are developing a novel cell therapy to treat diabetes by in vitro and in vivo induction of GINIS organoids from human stomach. To treat Type 1 diabetes, an autoimmune disease, we are also investigating the feasibility of generating autoimmune-resistant GINS organoids.
A second major focus of the laboratory is the study of gut stem cells, with a particular focus on understanding their regional differences and regeneration. We have identified master regulators that distinguish the small intestine from the large intestine. Modulating expression of these factors in gut stem cells leads to rapid conversion from large intestine epithelium to small intestine epithelium and vice versa. Using these molecular insights, we are developing a novel gene therapy to treat Short Bowel Syndrome. We are also studying stem cell heterogeneity in Inflammatory Bowel Diseases and developing therapeutics.
- Pancreatic islet regeneration
- Intestinal mucosal remodeling
- Cell and gene therapies
Joe Qiao Zhou received his Ph.D from the California Institute of Technology where he studied neurodevelopment. After postdoctoral training as a Damon Runyon Fellow at Harvard with Dr. Douglas Melton, he started his laboratory at the Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology at Harvard College in 2009. In 2019, Dr. Zhou moved to the Division of Regenerative Medicine at Weill Cornell Medicine.
- Biomedical Business Plan Challenge Winner (2023)
- Founded NYC*T1D Network (2020)
- Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation Fellowship (2003)