Staff associate Christoph Lepper, with colleagues, overturned previous research that identified critical genes for making muscle stem cells. It turns out that the genes that make muscle stem cells in the embryo are surprisingly not needed in adult muscle stem cells to regenerate muscles after injury. The finding challenges the current course of research into muscular dystrophy, muscle injury, and regenerative medicine, which uses stem cells for healing tissues, and it favors using age-matched stem cells for therapy.
Previous studies showed that two genes Pax3 and Pax7, are essential for making the embryonic and neonatal muscle stem cells in the mouse. But Lepper and team for the first time looked at these two genes in promoting stem cells at varying stages of muscle growth in live mice after birth.
Lepper is one of 10 recipients of the NIH Director’s Early Independence Awards. Lepper receives a prize of $250,000 per year for five years to carry out his creative research program as an independent investigator. The prize is designed to launch exceptional young scientists into independent positions directly out of graduate school.
Lepper was a postdoctoral fellow at Carnegie from 2010 to 2011, when he became a staff associate. He received a B.S. in biology and biotechnology from the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where he studied cartilage development at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. He was awarded his Ph.D. from the Johns Hopkins University in 2010.