​​​​​​​​​ Dr. Maria Cristina Nostro  
Dr. Maria Cristina Nostro, PhD

Harry Rosen Chair, Diabetes and Regenerative Medicine Research
Principal Investigator, McEwen Stem Cell Institute, UHN
Assistant Professor, Department of Physiology, University of Toronto

Dr. Nostro joined the McEwen Stem Cell Institute (formerly the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine) in September 2012 as Principal Investigator and currently holds the Harry Rosen Chair in Diabetes Regenerative Medicine Research. The objective of her research is to differentiate pluripotent stem cells to pancreatic cells, with the ultimate goal of generating functional insulin-producing β cells for transplantation in patients with type 1 diabetes and eliminate the need for daily insulin injections.

Dr. Nostro obtained a Laurea in Biology (BSc and MSc equivalent) from the University of Florence, Italy in 2000. As an undergraduate student, she participated in the Erasmus Exchange Program and joined Professor Chris Potten’s laboratory at the Paterson Institute for Cancer Research, in Manchester, UK. Her stay in his laboratory sparked her interest in stem cell biology and her desire to pursue an academic career.

In 2000, with a Fellowship from the Italian National Research Council, she enrolled as a PhD student at The University of Manchester and under the supervision of Dr. Gerard Brady, studied blood stem cells and became an expert in gene expression profiling of these​ cells at the single cell level. After obtaining her PhD in 2004, she was drawn to study a new model system and applied for a postdoctoral position in the laboratory of Dr. Gordon Keller at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in NY, where she focused on understanding the earliest stages of blood cell formation using embryonic stem cells. After relocating to Toronto in 2007, she progressed to her scientific independency by initiating a project on ​​pancreatic development.

In her independent research career, Dr. Nostro has defined critical pathways leading to the efficient generation of hPSC-derived pancreatic progenitors in vitro (Nostro et al., Stem Cell Reports 2015) and recently, through the use of a proteomics approach, identified a specific marker that allows the purification of these β cell progenitors (Cogger et al., Nat. Communications 2017). Since 2015, Dr. Nostro has been leading a multi-investigator team aimed at developing novel transplantation approaches for type 1 diabetes therapy.

A complete list of Dr. Nostro's publications​ can be found on UHN Research.

Pluripotent Stem Cell-Derived Pancreatic Progenitors and β-Like Cells for Type 1 Diabetes Treatment.
Physiology (Bethesda). 2018 Nov 01;33(6):394-402
Sambathkumar R, Migliorini A, Nostro MC​

Report of the Key Opinion Leaders Meeting on Stem Cell-derived Beta Cells.
Transplantation. 2018 Aug;102(8):1223-1229
Odorico J, Markmann J, Melton D, Greenstein J, Hwa A, Nostro C, Rezania A, Oberholzer J, Pipeleers D, Yang L, Cowan C, Huangfu D, Egli D, Ben-David U, Vallier L, Grey ST, Tang Q, Roep B, Ricordi C, Naji A, Orlando G, Anderson DG, Poznansky M, Ludwig B,...

The LIM homeodomain protein ISL1 mediates the function of TCF7L2 in pancreatic beta cells.​
J Mol Endocrinol. 2018 Jul;61(1):1-12
Shao W, Szeto V, Song Z, Tian L, Feng ZP, Nostro MC, Jin T

Principal Investigator: Dr. Cristina Nostro​
Lab Manager: Farida Sarangi

Postdoctoral Fellows

Yasaman Aghazadeh (supported by Medicine By Design fellowship)
Adriana Migliorini (supported by Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation)
Rangarajan Sambathkumar


Emily McGaugh, PhD Candidate, supported by Banting and Best Diabetes Centre
Paraish Misra, MSc Candidate, supported by KRESCENT Foundation
Frankie Poon, PhD Candidate

Dr. Nostro and colleagues at work in the lab
Dr. Nostro and colleagues at work in the lab.​

One step closer to stem cell breakthrough for diabetes

Dr. Cristina Nostro, holder of the Harry Rosen Chair in Diabetes Regenerative Medicine Research at the McEwen Centre for Regenerative Medicine, is on a mission to find a cure for Type 1 diabetes. Bringing an international flair to her scientific background (she is from Italy and has done advanced training in England and the United States), Dr. Nostro joined the McEwen Centre in 2007 as a post-doctoral fellow.

Type 1 diabetes has long been considered to be an ideal candidate for stem cell-based​ therapy. Her discoveries made in the McEwen Centre labs now give her the ability to produce functioning, insulin-producing beta cells. Among stem cell scientists, there is a sense that they are getting closer to a cell therapy goal, effectively making the leap from bench to bedside.

In 2015, Dr. Nostro published a groundbreaking study in Stem Cell Reports showing methods to effectively generate larger populations of pancreatic progenitor cells (essentially, pancreatic cells that can produce beta cells) using a wide range of pluripotent stem cells. Her research has shown that when these cells are transplanted into Type 1 models, they have successfully reverted glucose to normal levels. This will enable more efficient testing of these cells across a larger number of laboratories, increasing the odds – and the speed – of obtaining a cure for Type 1 diabetes.

Dr. Nostro is also using a technique that allows the insulin-producing cells that are destroyed by Type 1 diabetes to be re-created in our laboratories. This will help her understand how the disease develops and perhaps lead to more effective treatments for the condition.

“Our ultimate goal is to develop new drugs that will modify the immune system so that it ends its attack on the beta cells.”​​