As an Assistant Professor in the Department of Neurology, Dr. Machairaki uses a wide range of molecular biology and stem cell biology techniques to investigate neurodegenerative diseases. Along with her team, she has successfully developed a simplified, efficient system allowing for the controlled conversion of human ES cells to the neural lineage using adherent monolayer conditions. This approach enabled the generation of human ES cell-derived neural precursors (HuNPs) that show substantial promise with respect to neuronal differentiation after grafting in the adult rat brain. To optimize the process of neuronal differentiation and dendrite/axon formation in vitro, the team has employed an approach combining nanobiotechnology with stem cell methodologies, and they have successfully shown robust neuronal differentiation along biocompatible synthetic nanofibrous scaffolds.
Dr. Machairaki's research focus for more than ten years has been the reprogramming of differentiated cell types, such as human fibroblasts and human blood, into pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs) and the application of this technology to studies of the nervous system and the diseases that affect it. She has been working on the generation of iPS cell lines from Alzheimer’s disease (AD) patients using recent developments in reprogramming strategies such as non-integrating episomal vectors to produce virus-free, clinical safe hiPSC. Based on these studies, she has recently extended her research interests in the rapidly emerging field of exosomes and micro-vesicles (called extracellular vesicles or EVs) and her main focus is to explore the potential application of EVs isolated from hiPSC-derived neurons and astrocytes in diagnostics and pathology of AD. Combining these studies with the recent success of her lab on generating novel 3D in vitro models, such as cerebral organoids, Dr. Machairaki and her team can now develop new platforms to study disease mechanisms and test new pharmacological cures.
Dr. Machairaki is also a member of the newly established Johns Hopkins Precision Medicine Center of Excellence in Alzheimer's Disease (PMCoE-AD) working on a unique translational project involving the development of novel human iPSC models for the characterization of biologic subtypes of AD.