Leonardo Morsut, assistant professor of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine at USC, was born and raised in Padova, Italy, with an early fascination for science in general, and for embryology in particular. His scientific background is multifaceted, with degrees in Medical Biotechnologies, Math and Developmental Biology from Padova University (Italy). During his PhD in the Stefano Piccolo lab, he investigated roles of morphogen signaling during early mouse embryogenesis; he also described the YAP/TAZ mechanotransduction pathway in a seminal paper that opened the field of transcriptional interpretation of mechanical cues by cells.
In his postdoc in the laboratory of Wendell Lim at UCSF, he developed synthetic biology tools for multicellular systems. The synNotch receptor that he invented there, in collaboration with Kole Roybal, PhD from the same lab, is a modular tool that can be used to engineer new sensing-and-respond behaviors in cells; it has raised wide interest both in the academic as well as the industry setting.
In his “Tissue Development Engineering lab" at USC he applies the synthetic biology framework to implement developmental programs in stem cells in order to guide their development into user-specified tissue in vitro, with applications in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine problems. Specific areas of interests are: developing vascularization systems for in vitro grown organoids, synthetic biology tools to control electric fields in tissues, engineered cell therapy for neurodeneneration and bone and cartilage defects.