Ruslan Rust, PhD, holds the position of Assistant Professor of Research in Physiology and Neuroscience within the group led by Berislav Zlokovic, MD, PhD, at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.
A central focus of the team is to overcome existing limitations in cell therapies for brain injuries by utilizing advanced genetic, molecular, and computational tools. Recently, they have developed scalable sources of cells, including pericytes and neural stem cells, harvested from induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) under xeno-free conditions. These cells are equipped with fluorescent and bioluminescent reporters, allowing for continuous monitoring post-transplantation.
In the next phase, the cells will be genetically engineered with a brain-shuttle system to enhance their distribution throughout the brain. To prevent immune rejection, the transplants will be designed to co-express specific immunosuppressive molecules, coupled with safety checkpoints. The effectiveness of these optimized cell therapies will be assessed through a comprehensive experimental pipeline, encompassing in vivo imaging, deep learning-based behavioral profiling, and single-cell omics technologies. The insights gained from this research are anticipated to be instrumental in advancing cell therapy for brain injuries closer to clinical applications in the near future.