Cowan Lab

Modeling Cardiovascular and Metabolic Disease with Human Pluripotent Stem Cells


Chad Cowan, Ph.D.      
Principal Faculty
Harvard Stem Cell Institute
Associate Professor
Center for Regenerative Medicine, Massachusetts General Hospital
Department of Stem Cell and Regenerative Biology, Harvard University

Our goal is to understand how naturally occurring human genetic variation protects (or predisposes) some people to cardiovascular and metabolic disease—the leading cause of death in the world—and to use that information to develop therapies that can protect the entire population from disease. Our strategy is to identify patients, families, and cohorts with disease; to use genetic techniques such as genome-wide association studies and exome sequencing to identify novel DNA variants and genes linked to disease; to use human cell-based models and mouse models to understand how the DNA variants affect gene and protein function; and to use these mechanistic insights to begin the process of developing new therapies that will benefit patients and populations. In particular, we are interested in using human pluripotent stem cells to create human-derived tissues, containing specific DNA variants, as genetic disease models in which environmental and epigenetic influences have been minimized. We also aim to use stem cells to enable regenerative medicine, in which a patient’s own cells can be genetically cured or made resistant to disease and then transplanted back into the body as a durable treatment.

Group Members

Research Fellows
Raymond Camahort, Ph.D.
Ludivine Challet-Meylan, PhD
Qiurong Ding, Ph.D.
Rajat Gupta, MD
Youn-Kyoung Lee, Ph.D.
Torsten Meissner, PhD

Graduate Students
Leonard Ferreira
Max Freisen
Derek Peters

Lab Assistant
Yulei Xia
Research Technician
Fang Xia


N. Maherali, T. Ahfeldt, A. Rigamonti, J. Utikal, C. Cowan, K. Hochedlinger.  A High-Efficiency System for the Generation and Study of Human Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells.  Cell Stem Cell, 3(3), 340-345. 2008. PMID: 18786420.

Park, N. Arora, H. Huo, N. Maherali, T. Ahfeldt, A. Shimamura, M. Lensch, C. Cowan, K. Hochedlinger, G. Daley Disease-Specific Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells.  Cell, 134(5), 877- 886. 2008.

Warren L, Manos PD, Ahfeldt T, Loh YH, Li H, Lau F, Ebina W, Mandal PK, Smith ZD, Meissner A, Daley GQ, Brack AS, Collins JJ, Cowan C, Schlaeger TM, Rossi DJ. Highly efficient reprogramming to pluripotency and directed differentiation of human stem cells with synthetic modified mRNA, Cell Stem Cell. 2010 Nov 5;7(5):618-30. Epub 2010 Sep 30. PMCID: 3656821.

Ahfeldt T, Schinzel RT, Lee YK, Hendrickson D, Kaplan A, Lum DH, Camahort R, Xia F, Shay J, Rhee EP, Clish CB, Deo RC, Shen T, Lau FH, Cowley A, Mowrer G, Al-Siddiqui H, Mahrendorf M, Musunuru K, Gerszten RE, Rinn JL, Cowan CA. Programming human pluripotent stem cells into white and brown adipocytes. Nature Cell Biology. 2012 Jan 15;14(2):209-19. doi: 10.1038/ncb2411. PMCID: PMC3385947.

Mou H, Zhao R, Sherwood, R, Ahfeldt, T, Lapey, A, Wain, J, Sicilian, L, Izvolsky, K, Musunuru K, Cowan C, and Rajagopal, J. (2012). Generation of Multipotent Lung and Airway Progenitors from Mouse ESCs and Patient-Specific Cystic Fibrosis iPSCs. Cell Stem Cell 2012 Apr 6;10(4):385-97. PMCID: PMC3474327.

Ding Q, Lee YK, Esperance A, Schaefer K, Peters DT, Veres A, Kim K, Kuperwasser N, Motola DL, Meissner TB, Hendriks WT, Trevisan M, Gupta RM, Moisan A, Friesen M, Schinzel RT, Xia F, Tang A, Xia Y, Figueroa E, Wann A, Ahfeldt T, Daheron L, Feng Zhang F, Rubin LL, Peng LF, Chung RT, Kiran Musunuru, Cowan CA. A TALEN genome editing system to generate human cellular disease models. Cell Stem Cell. February 7, 2013 PMCID: PMC3570604.

Additional publications

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