Marco Seandel '86
“There are a lot of similarities between cancer cells and stem cells. If you could understand what makes stem cells tick, maybe you could understand cancer.”
Dr. Marco Seandel, Assistant Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology in Surgery at Weil Cornell Medical College, launched his career investigating one of the most daunting medical challenges of our time—cancer.
In 2007, Marco attracted attention when his team found a protein marker that could be used to identify important cells in mice. Existing research had found stem cells in mice, but Marco’s research identified an efficient way to sort out the cells.
This discovery quickly led to investigations for identifying and sorting stem cells in humans. Now, thanks in part to Marco and his team, stem cells can be drawn from humans and artificially grown and transformed into specialized cell types with characteristics consistent with cells of various tissues such as muscles or nerves.
Soon researchers hope to be able to grow human stem cells in large quantities and then force them to mature into any type of cell in the body as needed—transforming organ replacements as well as a host of other serious medical treatments.
Most recently, Marco and his team have been exploring stem cells to better understand the role that alterations to our genes play in developing neurodevelopmental syndromes, congenital heart disease, and skeletal defects as well as cancer. It is this work that won Marco and his team the prestigious New Innovator Award from the National Institutes of Health last fall, which carries $1.5 million in funding over five years to support this groundbreaking research.