Xuegang Yuan is a post-doctoral fellow in biomedical engineering and was recently named a Toffler Scholar by the Florida State University College of Medicine and the Karen Toffler Charitable Trust. He was honored with the fellowship for his proposal titled, “Extracellular Vesicles derived from 3D-Engineered Human Mesenchymal Stem Cell Aggregates for Multiple Sclerosis Treatment.”
Yuan’s research focuses on stem cell-derived therapy to treat neurodegeneration, prevalent in diseases like multiple sclerosis and other neurodegenerative diseases. He earned his doctorate in chemical and biomedical engineering from Florida State University (2019).
Explain your research: I am studying the biology of human stem cells. We are looking at strategies for engineering stem cell products to fight multiple sclerosis. Multiple sclerosis is a chronic disease that attacks the central neural system and is caused by inflammation and demyelination. The process that occurs when myelin, the protective coating of nerve cells, experiences damage. It’s the most common cause of non-traumatic disability in young adults.
Why is this important? Currently, no viable treatment for the disease exists that can inhibit an immune response or restore function. However, we are working on a promising new study that indicates that human mesenchymal stromal cells may be the key to fighting the disease.
What inspired you to go into this area of research? I had an interest in biology and medical science when I was in high school. Though my major in college was polymer chemistry, I focused on the most cutting-edge technology and science in biology and biomaterials. From there, I developed my interest in scientific research.
What brought you to FSU and the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering? When I applied to graduate school for my Ph.D., I got several offers. But FSU and the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering have the research capabilities that combine engineering and biology, which fits my interest very well.
What aspect of your area of study do you find most interesting? One of my research interests is to find the connection between engineering stem cell fate and cellular metabolic regulations for altering the stem cell therapeutic potentials under an artificial environment. The exosomes secreted by the living cells we are studying may help mediate the suppression of inflammation, myelin repair and neuron regeneration. We hope our engineered stem cells and their derivatives could benefit the recovery of multiple sclerosis in animal models.
What research groups are you working with? I am collaborating with several research groups. At the FAMU-FSU College of Engineering, I am working with Dr. Yan Li. I am also working with faculty at FSU College of Medicine, the MagLab, research groups from FAMU.
What do you like to do when not in the lab? I like going to the cinema to watch movies, playing guitar and reading novels to relax.
What do you look forward to in your career? What are your plans? I hope to learn more about novel cell therapy for different diseases. I believe our innovative engineering strategies can further stem-cell therapy for multiple sclerosis and other neurological diseases. I plan to seek opportunities in academia and become a professor in a university.
What advice do you have for students? My experience from my research life is: read more, think more and try more—and do this cycle again. I always learn and develop new findings this way.