Sonja Schrepfer, M.D., Ph.D., Professor of Surgery, founded the Transplant and Stem Cell Immunobiology (TSI) Lab in 2009 in Germany. In 2016, she joined the faculty of the Department of Surgery at the University of California San Francisco. She is also Director of the TSI Lab at UCSF.
Dr. Schrepfer's research career has been dedicated to making fundamental discovers in stem cell immunology, transplant and cardiovascular immunobiology. Her lab currently works on immunobiological mechanisms of pluripotent stem cells (mouse and human). One project uses e.g. a combination of molecular/cellular biology, genomic/epigenomic profiling, tissue engineering, and molecular imaging technologies to better understand stem cell biology in vitro and in vivo. She has made significant contributions in the field of immunological barriers in regenerative medicine and in identifying novel immunobiological targets involved in cardiovascular diseases.
The TSI Lab is also investigating the vascular biology of "mice from space"; that is mice that have spent time at the international space station (ISS). This research will provide insight into what physiological effects time in outer space might have on astronauts, with potentially important implications for future longer-term missions, and has the possibility to open the door to fascinating new discoveries that could be used in earth-bound cardiovascular research.
Dr. Schrepfer's research aims to understand the critical immunological barrier that presently precludes the successful application of cell-based regenerative therapy Her TSI Lab has made seminal contributions to the field, including the first description of the antigenicity of mitochondria in embryonic stem cells derived by somatic cell nucleus transfer (SCNT). Currently, her group is interested in understanding the molecular, cellular, and epigenetic landscape changes after transplantation of stem cells and their derivates and we are aiming to decrease the immunogenic potential of PSCs.
The lab has also discovered novel pathways involved in the development of vascular intimal hyperplasia. Myointimal hyperplasia is a pathological process of the vascular system characterized by abnormal proliferation of smooth muscle cells of the vascular wall that leads to luminal obliteration and subsequent ischemia. Myointimal hyperplasia may occur in patients after vessel injury during medical procedures (e.g. after balloon dilation or stent placement) or after pathological injury of the blood vessel (e.g. due to inflammation or toxic exposure). It can cause graft failure and in-stent restenosis. To help prevent this and increase the success of treatments for coronary heart disease, Dr. Schrepfer's lab has also developed novel humanized models to study the development of intimal hyperplasia.
Transplant immunology after heart and lung transplantation is another area the lab is exploring with particular focus on translational research and investigation of underlying mechanisms of acute and chronic graft rejection. Novel drug discoveries will benefit our patients tremendously.