David Schaffer's research program employs molecular and cellular engineering approaches to investigate biomedical problems. In particular, their lab focuses on the related areas of gene therapy, genome editing, and stem cell bioengineering, with applications to diseases of the nervous system and other tissues. They are using high throughput protein engineering approaches to engineer safe, targeted viral gene delivery vehicles for gene therapy, and technologies developed in their lab are in numerous human clinical trials. Furthermore, they are developing novel technologies to investigate and better control the behavior of stem cells, both to advance basic biological knowledge of the development and function of the nervous system and to engineer stem cell based therapies to treat neurodegenerative disease.
In the News
UC Berkeley researchers have discovered that a small-molecule drug simultaneously perks up old stem cells in the brains and muscles of mice, a finding that could lead to drug interventions for humans that would make aging tissues throughout the body act young again.
Rather than trying to quiet the body’s defenses against viruses, David Schaffer has favored a kind of intelligent design approach to modify the virus. Known as directed evolution, the strategy uses genetic engineering to find variations in the virus that will allow it to effectively deliver drugs to target cells.
Researchers at UC Berkeley have developed an easier and more effective method for inserting genes into eye cells that could greatly expand gene therapy to help restore sight to patients with blinding diseases ranging from inherited defects like retinitis pigmentosa to degenerative illnesses of old age, such as macular degeneration.