Tiziano Barberi

Tiziano Barberi, Ph.D.

Associate Professor | Host Pathogen Interaction, Southwest National Primate Research Center

Research Focus

Dr. Barberi’s research group studies the directed differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells and non-human primate stem cells into specific fates. An understanding of the mechanisms of early development is important for our knowledge of human disease because these cells can give rise to all cell types of our body. Dr. Barberi aims to generate hPSC-derived specialized progeny that will be used for drug screening, modeling of diseases, and for pre-clinical applications.
His studies encompass the development of the skeletal muscle system, the retina of the eye and early neural development, specifically:

  • Skeletal muscle development and its in vivo applications in animal models of muscle disease
  • Modeling the development of neural plate border cell populations, cranial placodes, and neural crest
  • In vitro generation of neural retina cells for eye repair

Dr. Barberi has more than 20 years of experience working in stem cell research.

Inside The Lab

Human pluripotent stem cells (hPSC) encompass human embryonic stem cells (hESC) and human induced-pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC). Human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) are pluripotent cells derived from the inner cell mass of the blastocyst.

In vitro, these cells display extensive proliferation and the ability to differentiate into derivatives of all three germ layers, resulting in their great potential for use in cell engineering-based therapies and as a model for early human development. Human induced- pluripotent stem cells (hiPSC) are ESC-like cells derived from adult somatic tissues through cellular reprogramming.

We use hESC and hiPSC as an in vitro model of cell fate determination and lineage specification, and to obtain specialized cells.

To direct the differentiation of hPSC into the fates of interest, we establish specific culture conditions that combine the use of distinctly coated dishes with a serum-free medium and an appropriate cocktail of growth factors and/or active small molecules. Upon differentiation, we use fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) technology to purify the desired cell populations, an essential prerequisite that provides the basis for the next step: to generate hPSC-derived specialized progeny to be used for drug screening, disease modeling, and pre-clinical applications.

Our studies include the following:
Skeletal muscle development from hPSCs

  • Identification and isolation of striated myogenic precursors
  • In vitro characterization of the precursors and their terminal differentiation into mature myocytes
  • Transplantation of PSC-derived muscle precursors into animal models of muscle disease

Modeling the development of neural plate border cell populations, neural crest and cranial placodes

  • Differentiation of hPSCs into panplacodal ectoderm
  • Differentiation of hPSCs into lens epithelium
  • Isolation and purification of lens epithelium
  • Derivation of olfactory placode
  • Differentiation of olfactory epithelium into olfactory and GDNH neurons

Differentiation of hPSCs into retinal cells

  • Optimization of culture conditions for forebrain development
  • Role of growth factors/small molecules in inducing retinal cell differentiation
  • Differentiation of hPSCs into retina progenitors and specific retinal cell subtypes
  • FACS-mediated isolation of retina progenitors
  • Transplantation of retina progenitors into animal models of retina degeneration

Main Technologies And Methods Used

  • Fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS)
  • Analytical flow cytometry
  • Tissue culture
  • Stem cell differentiation
  • PCR
  • Western blot
  • Immunocytochemistry
  • Gene editing (CRISPR)

Lab Team Members

Alberto MunizAlberto Muniz, PhD, Staff Scientist I
Project work: Retina
(210) 258-9229

Bianca Borchin

Bianca Borchin, PhD, Postoctoral Fellow
Project work: Muscle

Rebecca Bricker, MS, PhD student
Project work: Neural crest/cranial placode