The Ashton Group
Dr. Randolph Ashton began the ‘Stem Cell Bioprocessing and Regenerative Biomaterials Laboratory’ at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery in Fall 2011. The lab uses a highly interdisciplinary approach to investigate the microenvironmental factors that regulate human pluripotent stem cell fate, and then incorporates both known and novel factors into highly controlled and efficient methods for manufacturing next-generation tissue models and regenerative cellular therapeutics. The approaches and methods merge techniques, principles, and concepts from chemical, mechanical, and electrical engineering along with polymer chemistry, microfabrication, and developmental biology. Similarly, the lab’s research associates (post-docs), assistants (graduate students), and undergraduates have equally diverse educational backgrounds, and all scientists/students with relevant backgrounds should inquire about positions. Currently, the lab’s main focus is on developing highly efficient protocols for deriving region-specific cell phenotypes and anatomically biomimetic tissue models of the human central nervous system.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS (FAQs)
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What is our goal?
Our goal is to understand, model, and recapitulate in vitro the instructive signals utilized by human embryos to pattern tissue-specific differentiation of pluripotent stem cells, and apply this knowledge towards the rational design of tissue engineered scaffolds and other regenerative therapeutic strategies. Currently, we primarily focus on generating tissues and therapies for the central nervous system.
Why are stem cells important?
Human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) were first cultured by Prof. James Thomson (UW Madison) in 1998. They revolutionized science by providing a renewable source for cell phenotypes characteristic of those present during the earliest stages of human development. However, they also stirred intense ethical debate due to their embryonic source. In 2007, the ethical dilemma was alleviated by the discovery of induce pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), which are adult cells (e.g. skin cells) that have been reverted to a pluripotent state using genetic or chemical reprogramming. In the Ashton Lab, we use hESCs as a comparative ‘gold standard’ but ultimately seek to develop novel protocols and methods for facilitating clinical implementation of iPSC-based tissue models and therapies.
Information on stem cell therapies
Please use the International Society for Stem Cell Research’s “A Closer Look At Stem Cells” page for learning about the promise and reality of current stem cell therapies.
What do we research?
1) We develop scalable and clinically translatable protocols for efficiently differentiating human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs) into region-specific cell subtypes of the brain and spinal cord.
2) We explore the therapeutic potential of hSPC-derived neural cells in animal models.
3) We engineer culture platforms that enable spatiotemporal control over the morphogenesis of differentiating hPSCs at the microscale.
4) We develop scalable methods for creating vascularized neural tissue constructs derived from hPSCs.
5) We develop high-throughput screening platforms incorporating miniaturized arrays of hPSC-derived models of central nervous system tissues to elucidate pathological mechanisms underlying neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).
Latest News from the Ashton Lab
- Grant funds creation of spinal tissue from scratch in UW Madison Lab
- Ashton lab cracks the (Zip)code of neural cells
- Ashton lab awarded $1.18 million as part of the new, EPA supported H-MAPS Center at UW–Madison
- Prof. Ashton delivers a keynote talk at UW Madison’s SCRMC Fall Conference 2014
- Collaboration between Ashton and Crone labs advances derivation of matured heart muscle cells
- Ashton, Saha receive Innovation in Regulatory Science Award (Interview link)
- Focus on new faculty: Ashton works to move medicine from treatment to cure
- BMES research group honors Ashton and Saha as ‘rising stars’ in tissue engineering research
- The language of stem cells, decoded
- A paradigm-shifting step in stem cell research
- Seely on Science: Twisted path to understanding stem cells
Where are we located?
Room 4168 WID Building
330 N. Orchard St.
Madison, WI 53715
How can I be apart of this?
1) We are always looking for motivated, talented, and dedicated undergraduates, graduate students, and postdoctoral scientists to join our innovative group and help advance clinical implementation of regenerative therapies and stem cell-derived technology. Please view the ‘Positions’ page for job opportunities, and notify Dr. Ashton of your interest through the email portal on the ‘Contact Us’ page.
2) Donations to our research can be orchestrated through the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery or UW Madison Biomedical Engineering Department.