Dr. Rebekah Samsonraj is a rising new faculty in the department of engineering and biomedical engineering at the University of Arkansas, who works on stem cell potency and aging of mesenchymal stromal cells (MSCs). Prior to joining the University of Arkansas, she served as a research faculty at the Knight campus, University of Oregon and was an assistant professor of medicine at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science. Her PhD thesis, which she completed at the National University of Singapore and the Institute of Medical Biology-A*Star Singapore, stemmed from an industry need to establish good criteria for evaluating MSC potency.
In this exclusive interview with Rebekah, we discussed the challenges faced in defining human MSC (hMSC) potency, zeroing in on the work she did at Simon Cool’s lab which began with establishing an ectopic bone formation assay as a method to assess MSC potency. Their goal was to find a simple screening tool that any lab can use to determine MSC potency. In this Stem Cell publication, Rebekah showed that you can use growth capacity as a simple method to assess MSC potency . A subsequent collaboration with the Genome Institute of Singapore A*Star led to the identification of GSTT1 as a novel genomic DNA biomarker that correlated to hMSC scalability and can be used as a screening assay to pre-select donors prior to harvesting their bone marrow .
Given Rebekah’s years of experience in establishing MSC potency assays, it was very insightful to hear what she thought might be the best approach to establishing potency for MSC extracellular vesicles (EVs). Rebekah believes that evaluating their protein signatures should be the first step, next you would want to correlate these protein signatures to simple functional assays such as immunomodulation. Ideally, one should aim to develop a molecular fingerprint and database for multiple donors, and then establish good functional in vivo assays that you can use to correlate to their proteomic blueprint. This approach would be very insightful in understanding MSC EV characteristics and finding a good potency assay.
No stranger to the RoosterBio team, Rebekah has incorporated RoosterBio’s bone marrow MSCs into her latest research endeavor and screened multiple donors to evaluate their performance. It was an easy decision for her to use our cells because of the robustness of our MSC characterization panel and reliability in performance.
“RoosterBio products have facilitated my research involving bone marrow-derived MSCs by providing high-quality products that have been tested for purity and performance. The robust MSC characterization practices followed by RoosterBio is important for my lab’s research and thus RoosterBio MSCs are our first choice in commercial cells procurement.”
Beyond cell quality and performance that she can rely on, the media component was equally an essential part of her experimental process and considerations. The clinical relevancy of our xeno-free MSC growth media, RoosterNourish-MSC-XF, was important to support future cell therapy development and clinical pursuits in her laboratory.
“Most importantly, as we are transitioning into xeno-free growth conditions for MSCs, the RoosterNourish-XF media has become an essential and standard formulation for expansion studies, as well as making it suitable for in vivo transplantation and cell delivery studies in preclinical animal models of tissue engineering and cellular therapy.”
As a new faculty at the University of Arkansas, Rebekah is looking forward to establishing her new research laboratory in building strategies for MSC based cellular therapies and biomanufacturing of MSC derived products using biophysical but non-destructive methods. One of her first projects will be looking at establishing a modulation strategy for scalable manufacturing of MSC therapeutics such as the secretomes.
To learn more about Rebekah’s work, join her lab or collaborate with her.
- Samsonraj et.al. Establishing criteria for human mesenchymal stem cell potency. Stem Cells. 2015. 33(6): 1878-91
- Sathiyanathan et.al. A genomic biomarker that identifies human bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells with high scalability. Stem Cells. 2020. 38(9): 1124-36