BME faculty appointment: Assistant Professor Patrick Cahan
September 25, 2015
Patrick Cahan, whose interest in pluripotent stem cells may lead to better treatment of cancer and provide insights helpful for regenerative medicine, has joined the Department of Biomedical Engineering as an assistant professor. His lab will be part of the School of Medicine’s Institute for Cell Engineering.
He will be dedicating the next two years to establishing his laboratory’s experimental and computational efforts, after which he will additionally teach an undergraduate BME course.
Cahan was a postdoctoral fellow with Dr. George Daley at Harvard Medical School and Boston Children’s Hospital before joining Johns Hopkins. He received his BS in computer science from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, his master’s degree in genomics and bioinformatics from George Washington University, and his PhD in computational biology from Washington University in St. Louis.
Pluripotent stem cells carry the potential to give rise to all the cell types of an adult. Cahan’s interest is in understanding the methods by which these cells head down one pathway or another developmentally, and to use this knowledge to improve the engineering of biomedically relevant cell types. He has developed a computational platform called CellNet that helps researchers assess and improve cell populations engineered from pluripotent stem cells. The CellNet platform is based on the premise that networks of interacting genes and proteins define a cell’s identity.
The long-term goal is to understand how distinct gene regulatory networks, corresponding to different cell types, are derived from one genome. Eventually, insights into how gene regulatory networks define cell types can help scientists understand what dysfunctionalities are associated with cancer, Cahan says. At the same time, those transcriptional insights can help researchers develop regenerative medicine technology so health care providers can heal previously irreparable tissues or organs.
— Michael Blumfield