Leadership and Key Members

Yi Sun, Ph.D.

Yi Sun, Ph.D.

Associate Professor

Yi Sun, Ph.D, studies the molecular mechanisms that determine cell fate and control proliferation and differentiation of neural stem cells. She is particularly interested in alterations in the transcriptional program caused by DNA methylation and the epigenetic mechanisms at work during stem cell differentiation.

Additionally, Dr. Sun and her team also are cultivating and genetically modifying human and mouse embryonic stem cells to direct the differentiation process to produce highly pure sub-types of neurons in large quantities. These cells could then be used to repair an injured nervous system through cell replacement therapy, as well as build human neuron models to study neurological diseases and for use in screening potential therapies.

Dr. Sun first began her stem cell research in the mid-1990s, when the field was still largely unexplored. She was interested in how embryonic stem cells are directed to differentiate into the various cells that make up the nervous system. Dr. Sun said she has been fascinated by embryonic stem cells and their ability to become all the cells in the body. She hopes her research will one day result in human disease models that can be used to understand the molecular and cellular causes of disease. She also hopes her work leads to effective stem cell regenerative therapies.

In addition to being affiliated with the Broad Stem Cell Research Center, Dr. Sun is a
member of UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, the Semel Institute, ACCESS and the Brain Research Institute. An associate professor of Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences and Molecular Pharmacology, Dr. Sun earned her doctorate in neuroscience at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio. She joined the UCLA faculty in 2001 after completing her postdoctoral training at Harvard Medical School.

Dr. Sun also is affiliated with the Society for Neuroscience, the International Society for Stem Cell Research, the Chinese Biological Investigator’s Society and serves as an editorial board member for the Journal of Neuroscience Research.

Her work is funded by the National Institutes of Health and the International Rett Syndrome Foundation.