When it came time to select this year’s Broad Fellow, the award committee couldn’t pick just one. Instead, they bestowed the honor on two talented postdoctoral researchers in USC Stem Cell laboratories: heart researcher Michaela Patterson, PhD, and hearing researcher Ksenia Gnedeva, PhD.

“The Broad Foundation’s support is wisely invested in Drs. Patterson and Gnedeva,” said Andy McMahon, PhD, director of the Eli and Edythe Broad Center for Regenerative Medicine and Stem Cell Research at USC. “These two young scientists exemplify the best and brightest of the next generation of stem cell researchers.”

Postdoctoral researcher Gnedeva is exploring genes involved in the proliferation of sensory cells in the inner ear, with the goal of developing regenerative therapies for hearing loss. Specifically, she is looking at a group of genes and molecules called “Hippo,” which work together to sense the forces produced by developing tissues, and restrict excess growth.

“My research proposal is focused on the mechanical and genetic control of cell proliferation in the inner ear and opens an exciting new direction in regenerative medicine with a potential for the development of gene-based treatments for hearing loss,” said Gnedeva, who works in the USC Stem Cell laboratory of Neil Segil, PhD. “I’m grateful to the Broad Foundation for their support of my research project as well as my progress towards establishing an independent and innovative research group in the future.”

Prior to her arrival at USC, Gnedeva earned her bachelor’s degree in biology from Lomonosov Moscow State University in Russia, and obtained her PhD in developmental and cell biology from the Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute and the Koltzov Institute of Developmental Biology. She then completed four years of postdoctoral training in sensory neuroscience at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and Rockefeller University, before moving to USC. She has published her research in several journals, including the Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences (PNAS) and eLife.

Postdoctoral researcher Patterson is studying genes that affect the natural ability to regenerate heart tissue following an injury, such as a heart attack. This natural ability varies greatly among individuals, largely due to the activity of specific genes, including one called Tnni3k, that dictate the number of regenerative cells in the heart.

The project is part of Patterson’s longstanding commitment to working toward developing regenerative therapies for clinical translation. After earning her bachelor’s degrees in biology and Spanish from Bates College, Patterson served as a lab manager at Harvard Medical School, where she developed an interest in stem cells. She then pursued her PhD in molecular, cell and developmental biology at UCLA, studying early embryonic development and winning several awards for teaching undergraduates. She continued her postdoctoral training at USC, and her most recent publication appeared in the journal Nature Genetics.

“This award from the Broad Foundation will provide me with the support needed to strengthen my independent research program,” said Patterson, a member of the USC Stem Cell laboratory of Henry Sucov, PhD. “I’d like to thank the foundation for not only providing the means to pursue this project in heart regeneration, but also advancing my career as a future faculty member.”

— Cristy Lytal