Li Cai

Li Cai


Biomedical Engineering

Office Hours: By appointment


Ph.D.Rutgers University & UMDNJ-RWJ Medical School, 1997

Research Associate, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute/Harvard Medical School, 2000-2005

Postdoctoral Training, Harvard Medical School and Howard Hughes Medical Institute, 1997-2000

Research Interests

Regulation of Gene Expression in Stem Cells
The Cai lab aims to understand the regulatory mechanisms of gene expression in stem cells during normal development and tumorigenesis. Stem cells have the potential to develop into many different cell types for regenerative medicine, but they are also the source of at least some, perhaps, all cancers. The normal and cancerous behavior of stem cells may be determined by their unique pattern of gene expression. We are using integrative computational and experimental approaches to identify, verify and characterize the genetic regulatory elements, e.g., the conserved non-coding DNA sequences and their interacting protein factors, that involved in the gene regulation in stem cells. A thorough understanding of these mechanisms will provide the knowledge of stem cell development into various normal cell types as a repair system for the body, as well as a basis for the therapeutic treatments of cancers.

Selected Publications

Recent Publications and Presentations

1. Finkel Z, Esteban F, Rodriguez B, Fu T, Ai X, Cai L. Diversity of Adult Neural Stem and Progenitor Cells in Physiology and Disease. Cells. 2021 Aug 10;10(8):2045. doi: 10.3390/cells10082045. PMID:34440814; PMCID:PMC8392301.

2. Patel M, Anderson J, Lei S, Finkel Z, Rodriguez B, Esteban F, Risman R, Li Y, Lee KB, Lyu YL, Cai L. Nkx6.1 enhances neural stem cell activation and attenuates glial scar formation and neuroinflammation in the adult injured spinal cord. Exp Neurol. 2021 Nov;345:113826. doi:10.1016/j.expneurol.2021.113826. Epub 2021 Jul 31. PMID:34343529.

3. Patel M, Li Y, Anderson J, Castro-Pedrido S, Skinner R, Lei S, Finkel Z, Rodriguez B, Esteban F, Lee KB, Lyu YL, Cai L. Gsx1 promotes locomotor functional recovery after spinal cord injury. Mol Ther. 2021 Aug 4;29(8):2469-2482. doi: 10.1016/j.ymthe.2021.04.027. Epub 2021 Apr 23. PMID:33895323; PMCID:PMC8353206.

4. Rathnam C, Yang L, Castro-Pedrido S, Luo J, Cai L, Lee KB. Hybrid SMART spheroids to enhance stem cell therapy for CNS injuries. Sci Adv. 2021 Oct;7(40):eabj2281. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abj2281. Epub 2021 Sep 29. PMID:34586845; PMCID:PMC8480929.

5. Anderson J, Patel M, Forenzo D, Ai X, Cai C, Wade Q, Risman R, Cai L. A novel mouse model for the study of endogenous neural stem and progenitor cells after traumatic brain injury. Exp Neurol. 2020 Mar;325:113119. doi:10.1016/j.expneurol.2019.113119. Epub 2019 Nov 18. PMID:31751572.

6. Yang L, Chueng SD, Li Y, Patel M, Rathnam C, Dey G, Wang L, Cai L, Lee KB. A biodegradable hybrid inorganic nanoscaffold for advanced stem cell therapy. Nat Commun. 2018 Aug 8;9(1):3147. doi: 10.1038/s41467-018-05599-2. PMID:30089775; PMCID:PMC6082841.