Over the past decade, UB’s stem cell research has brought together investigators to explore and translate the promise of stem cells into effective clinical therapies and treatments for diseases from Parkinson’s to muscular dystrophy to diabetes.
Add glaucoma to the mix in the work of Xiuqian Mu. The soft-spoken scientist worked on retinal development at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston before arriving at UB in 2008. Of the offers he fielded, the opening at UB proved the most attractive. “I felt the environment was right for me: the people, the facilities, this brand new center and the other institutes around here,” he says.
A member of the Developmental Genomics Group at UB’s Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics and Life Sciences, Mu researches genes involved in the development of the retina and how they might repair retinal damage. “The hope is that if we understand how retinal ganglion cells are formed and maintained, we may be able to understand the causes of their deaths,” he says. “We eventually may be able to make these cells for therapeutic purposes.”
Mu’s research interest developed from his curiosity as a child growing up in a small village of Shandong province in eastern China. Fascinated by chemistry and how things react, he would take apart household gadgets to see what made them work. Despite their humble means, his parents encouraged him to study to become a doctor.
After graduating from medical school, Mu pursued a PhD in molecular biology at Beijing’s prestigious Peking Union Medical College. In the early 1990s he received a fellowship with the National Institutes of Health.
Mu seems to have found a home at the Center of Excellence and values its interdisciplinary mission. “My research involves a lot of genomics as well as bioinformatics, and I need collaborators in those fields. It’s very, very easy to collaborate with people here and that’s a big advantage,” he says. “I’ve also made friends with people from different departments. The support of people here has been very helpful.”
Mu is enthusiastic about the development of UB’s Downtown Campus. He enjoys playing basketball on weekends with a group of Chinese postdocs and students in UB’s Alumni Arena. And he has developed an appreciation for the area.
“Buffalo has a great history and there is so much around, particularly the architecture. People are very, very friendly. I think with the environment and people, it’s all here for me to do what I want to do.”