Weill Cornell Medical College Stem Cell Scientist
Named HHMI Investigator
Dr. Shahin Rafii of
Weill Medical College of Cornell University—an
internationally known cancer and vascular biologist and stem-cell
authority—has been named by the Howard Hughes Medical
Institute (HHMI) as one of 43 new HHMI investigators, an honor
bestowed on only the nation’s most promising and gifted
“I am very pleased to announce that our own Dr. Shahin
Rafii is the first physician-scientist at Weill Cornell to
be named an HHMI investigator at the Medical College,” says
Dr. Antonio M. Gotto, Jr., Dean of Weill Cornell Medical College. “As
both clinician and researcher, Dr. Rafii has the unique ability
to conduct translational research—to transform groundbreaking
research from bench to bedside efficiently and successfully.
His innovative work on stem cells and angiogenesis promises
to make lasting impact on the treatment of cancer and vascular
The Arthur Belfer Professor of Genetic Medicine and Director
of the Ansary Center for Stem Cell Therapeutics at Weill Cornell
Medical College, Dr. Rafii pioneered the concept that tumors
and regenerating or damaged organs rely on circulating stem
cells to build new blood vessels. He has shown that interaction
between blood vessel cells and organ-specific stem cells contributes
to the generation of functional vascularized organs, including
bone marrow, heart, and muscle tissues. This work has paved
the way for stem-cell therapy for the treatment of vascular
insufficiencies, such as heart attack, or targeting tumor vasculature
in cancer treatment.
In this regard, Dr.
Rafii’s most recent research, demonstrates
that a specific type of human fetal stem cell can develop into
functional vascularized muscle tissue—a finding that
could be the long-awaited breakthrough in using stem cells
to repair damaged hearts.
Additionally, Dr. Rafii’s discovery that tumor or normal
stem cells are dependent on interactions with vascular micro-environments
for survival, has led to novel approaches for treating hematological
malignancies and monitoring responses to anti-angiogenic therapies.
He has also identified specific mobilizing factors called “chemokines,” which,
through rapid recruitment of stem cells, restore blood production
much faster than those growth factors currently in clinical
This discovery may
have a tremendous impact for the treatment of blood and vascular
disorders, as well as for preventing toxic side effects associated
with chemotherapy, radiation, and bone marrow transplantation.
Dr. Rafii’s group is
currently designing gene and cell therapy models to exploit
the potential of stem cell-active chemokines for therapeutic
restoration of blood production.
Shahin Rafii received his B.A. in chemistry from Cornell University
and his M.D. from Albert Einstein College of Medicine. #