Research for the benefit of humankind
Medical breakthroughs and therapeutic advances often start as discoveries in the lab. That is where our science begins. Where our insights may lead, however, is boundless.
Curiosity drives our research. Impact drives our hope.
Research at the Stowers Institute is rooted in the audacious vision of our founders, Jim and Virginia Stowers, and their unwavering commitment to helping people live healthier lives. Today, their vision has become a remarkable reality.
Stowers has earned a reputation as an influential center for biomedical research that broadly spans life science disciplines, asking the big questions in biology wherever they can be studied most effectively.
Built on the cornerstone of imagination and daring just like our founders’ vision, this bold and far-reaching approach sets the stage for transforming biological insights into new ways to alleviate disease and improve human health. From diabetes to neurodegeneration, infertility to regeneration, and congenital syndromes to cancer, the potential impact of our research knows no bounds.
While cancer comprises hundreds of different diseases, all cancers can be characterized by the mutation of the human cell. Understanding what happens when a normal cell mutates to become cancerous is essential to developing treatments and cures. At Stowers, our foundational research identifies the genes, proteins, molecular networks, and mechanisms that underlie cell growth and other cell functions often compromised in cancer.
Our researchers are looking at how disruptions in these processes are associated with many different types of cancer such as leukemia, colon cancer, and carcinoma.
Stowers scientists have identified ways to expand human umbilical cord stem cells in culture for generating therapeutic quantities for transplants to treat leukemia and other cancers.
Other research areas include investigating cancer stem cells which are stubbornly resistant to treatment and developing new approaches for overcoming cancer drug resistance and stimulating immunity.
Diabetes and Metabolism
Understanding metabolism and how our body converts food into energy can help us understand obesity and diseases like diabetes. Our researchers study metabolism in novel research organisms like cavefish as a powerful way to understand the genes and mechanisms underlying metabolic processes in health and disease. We have shown that cavefish, for example, exhibit characteristics like high body fat and blood sugar levels associated with diabetes and metabolic syndrome in humans, but do not experience adverse health effects. We seek to understand why and how that knowledge can help humans.
Brain and Memory
With more than 85 billion neurons, the brain is one of the most complex systems in the world. Understanding the healthy brain can help us understand how memories are formed and what goes wrong in neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. Pioneering research on clustered proteins called amyloids, which are associated with devastating neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, has revealed a normal and healthy role for amyloids in the brain, specifically in long-term memory formation. This paradigm shift challenges traditional approaches for developing potential treatments for amyloid-associated brain diseases.
Millions of people of reproductive age are affected by infertility worldwide. Our foundational research focuses on genetic, molecular, and cellular contributions to infertility. Multiple research programs study how the integrity of chromosomes is maintained and how they are distributed during meiosis, the specialized cell division that produces eggs and sperm. Female reproductive aging is characterized by a decrease in egg quality, often with extra or missing chromosomes, which can lead to infertility, miscarriages, and congenital conditions.
Other research explores so-called selfish genes, which break laws of heredity to increase their own chances of being passed on at the expense of the organism’s overall fitness and fertility.
Aging and Regeneration
To us as humans, aging may seem like a natural part of existence, but in fact many organisms, can be described as biologically immortal.
Our research has yielded findings with implications for addressing a broad scope of age-related conditions such as inflammation, hearing loss, glaucoma, and the loss of the sense of smell. Pioneering research on molecules that control the formation and loss of bone helped lay groundwork for a new type of osteoporosis treatment called romosozumab.
Our research also focuses on aspects of regeneration, the ability of adult stem cells to reproduce many different kinds of cells. We study flatworms, apple snails, killifish and zebrafish to better understand how these unusual cells and animals accomplish such feats, providing possible blueprints for activating these abilities in new contexts and other species.
Abnormalities occurring in the early stages of development can lead to conditions that are congenital, or present at birth. A particular focus of research at Stowers is on neural crest cells, which arise in the primitive nervous system but then migrate to various parts of the body to become many different types of cells, tissues, and organs during development. Our neural crest cell research has uncovered genetic, molecular, and cellular mechanisms that cause Treacher- Collins Syndrome, which affects development of the head and face, and Hirschsprung’s disease, which affects nerves of the intestines.
Another area of focus is on a genome-organizing protein complex whose function is impaired in Roberts Ssyndrome, a rare genetic growth disorder, and Cornelia de Lange Ssyndrome, a condition characterized by slow growth..
Ongoing research aims to uncover more precisely how genetic alterations cause congenital conditions to reveal new ways for treating or preventing them.
Biological development is a finely orchestrated series of events, beginning with a single cell that gives rise to – in the case of humans – trillions of cells precisely organized into an elaborate body of tissues, structures, and organs. Many of our research programs investigate aspects of development and their underlying genetic programs that dictate how groups of genes activate at the right times and in the right patterns.
Stowers scientists tease apart the molecular intricacies of these genetic programs and the implications of mutations and other perturbations that alter development or cause disease.
Comparative studies across different organisms in the tree of life provides insight into how species have evolved.