Monica Bessler, M.D., PhD

faculty photo
Adjunct Professor of Pediatrics
Department: Pediatrics

Contact information
The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and
Perelman School of Medicine
University of Pennsylvania Health System
Abramson Research Center
3615 Civic Center Blvd.,
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Office: 267-426-9889
Fax: 267-426-9892
University of Zurich, Switzerland , 1981.
PhD (Genetics)
University of London , 1994.
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Description of Clinical Expertise

Diagnosis assessment an treatment of inherited and acquired Bone Marrow Failure
Acquired Aplastic Anemia
Familial Aplastic Anemia
Paroxysmal Nocturnal Hemoglobinuira
Diamond Blackfan Anemia
Shwachman Diamond Syndrome
Dyskeratosis Congenita
Other acquired and inherited bone marrow failure syndromes
Pediatric-Adult Transition of patents with bone marrow failure
Inherited Bone Marrow Failure in the Adult

Description of Research Expertise

Research Interest:

Inherited and acquired bone marrow failure syndromes
Pathogenesis and genetics of clonal evolution in bone marrow failure
Telomere biology
Ribosome biosynthesis
Translational Research in Bone Marrow Failure
Pediatric –Adult Transition
Comparative proteomics of the red blood cell in health and diease

Key words:

Aplastic anemia, myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS), Paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria (PNH), Dyskeratosis congenita, Diamond Blackfan Anemia (DBA), Shwachman Diamond Syndrome (SDS), Neutropenia, translational research, pediatric-adult transition, Orphan disease, genomics, proteomics, telomerase, ribosome biogenesis.

Research Projects 2012:

1. Defective telomere maintenance in bone marrow failure

2. Clonal evolution in bone marrow failure

3. Investigations of bone marrow failure syndromes using induced
pluripotent stem cells and mouse models.

4. Changes in the red cell proteome in health and disease

5. Pediatric–Adult Transition for patients with bone marrow failure

Description of Research:

Our research aims to define the molecular mechanisms that cause bone marrow failure and the factors that determine the clinical outcome and response to treatment. Bone marrow failure (BMF) is the inability of the bone marrow to produce sufficient blood cells. BMF may be brought about by a number of causes; these may be genetic (inherited bone marrow failure syndromes, IBMFS) or acquired. BMF may affect all, or only individual blood cell lineages. Our aims are a) to develop more specific tests or biomarkers that distinguish and diagnose individual forms of BMF, b) to identify the pathways that lead to BMF, c) to characterize the pathways responsible for late complications, such as the development of myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS) and leukemia, and finally d) to investigate specific and more targeted treatments for patients with BMF, allowing personalized therapy for patients with problems in blood cell production.

1. Defective telomere maintenance in bone marrow failure. Telomeres are complex protein DNA structures at the end of chromosomes. Defects in maintaining the proper telomere structure lead to cell cycle arrest and cell death. We are interested in defining the role of dysfunctional telomere maintenance in the pathogenesis of bone marrow failure and other clinical manifestations associated with Dyskeratosis Congenita, a rare bone marrow failure condition caused by excessively short telomeres.

2. We are interested in defining the early molecular events that determine recovery upon treatment, lack of treatment response, and early markers of malignant transformation, which is more frequent in some patients with specific forms of bone marrow failure. For this we will use high throughput sequencing technologies.

3. In collaboration with Philip J Mason, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and Mitchell Weiss, Deborah L French, and Paul Gadue, Human ES/iPS Cell Core of The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia we generate mouse and cellular models using induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSc) of specific BMF conditions, which allow us to investigate the pathways causing disease in a tissue and whole animal context. Animal models and tissue culture models allow us not only to investigate the pathways that cause disease but also to test for novel treatments that more specifically improve blood cell production in patients with BMF.

4. In collaboration with David Speicher at the Wistar Institute we are developing a robust, label-free proteomics platform allowing us to define differential protein expression in red blood cells. We are interested in using this platform to define changes in the red cell proteome that are specific for disorders caused by abnormal red blood cell production. This technology might not only allow us to define new diagnostic tools but possibly also to identify novel targets for therapy.

5. With improved therapy patients’ with IBMFS live longer and become adults. Furthermore with the availability of genetic testing an increasing number of adult BMF patients are diagnosed with IBMFS, previously thought to be mainly a disease of childhood. Little is known about the clinical manifestations of IBMFS in adults, the course of disease and response to treatment. Our long-term goal is to build up a pediatric-adult transition program for patients with BMF, in order to determine the frequency, clinical manifestations, the course of disease, and treatment outcomes of IBMFS in the adult.

Selected Publications

Kamio T, Gu BW, Olson TS, Zhang Y, Mason PJ, Bessler M.: Mice with a Mutation in the Mdm2 Gene That Interferes with MDM2/Ribosomal Protein Binding Develop a Defect in Erythropoiesis. PLoS One 11(4): e0152263, April 4 2016.

Babushok DV, Grignon AL, Li Y, Atienza J, Xie HM, Lam HS, Hartung H, Bessler M, Olson TS: Disrupted lymphocyte homeostasis in hepatitis-associated acquired aplastic anemia is associated with short telomeres. Am J Hematol 91(2): 243-47, Feb 2016.

Babushok DV, Stanley N, Xie HM, Huang H, Bagg A, Olson TS, Bessler M.: Clonal Replacement Underlies Spontaneous Remission in Paroxysmal Nocturnal Haemoglobinuria. Br J Haematol Feb 23 2016 Notes: Epub ahead of print.

Betensky M, Babushok D, Roth JJ, Mason PJ, Biegel JA, Busse TM, Li Y, Lind C, Papazoglou A, Monos D, Podsakoff G, Bessler M, Olson TS: Clonal evolution and clinical significance of copy number neutral loss of heterozygosity of chromosome arm 6p in acquired aplastic anemia. Cancer Genet 209(1-2): 1-10, Jan-Feb 2016.

Pesciotta EN, Lam HS, Kossenkov A, Ge J, Showe LC, Mason PJ, Bessler M, Speicher DW.: In-Depth, Label-Free Analysis of the Erythrocyte Cytoplasmic Proteome in Diamond Blackfan Anemia Identifies a Unique Inflammatory Signature. PLoS One 10(10): e0140036, Oct 16 2015.

Ge J, Apicella M, Mills JA, Garçon L, French DL, Weiss MJ, Bessler M, Mason PJ.: Dysregulation of the Transforming Growth Factor β Pathway in Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells Generated from Patients with Diamond Blackfan Anemia. Plos One 10(8): e0134878, Aug 10 2015.

Gu BW, Apicella M, Mills J, Fan JM, French D, Podsakoff GM, Bessler M, Mason PJ: Impaired telomere maintenance and decreased canonical WNT signaling but normal ribosome biogenesis in induced pluripotent stem cells from X-linked dyskeratosis congenital patients. PLoS One 10(5): e0127414, May 18 2015.

Babushok DV, Perdigones, N, Perinc, JC, Olson TS, Yeb, W, Roth, JJ, Lind,C , Cattier C, Li Y, Hartung H, Paessler, ME, Frank, DM, Xie HM, Shanna, C, Cockroft JD, Podsakoff, GM, Monos, D, Biegel, JA, Philip J. Mason, PJ, Bessler, M.: Emergence of Clonal Hematopoiesis in the majority of Patients with Acquired Aplastic Anemia. . Cancer Genetics 208(4): 115-128, Apr 2015.

Perdigones N, Morales M, Mason P, Bessler M: Case Report: Paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria in a woman heterozygous for G6PD A-. F1000Res 13: 3:194, Aug 13 2014.

68. Williams D.A, Bennett C, Bertuch A, Bessler M, Coates T, Corey S, Dror Y, Huang J, Lipton J, Olson TS, Reiss UM, Rogers ZR, Sieff C, Vlachos A, Walkovich K, Wang W, Shimamura A. : Diagnosis and treatment of pediatric acquired aplastic anemia (AAA): an initial survey of the north american pediatric aplastic anemia consortium (NAPAAC). Pediatric Blood & Cancer 61(5): 869-874, May 2014.

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Last updated: 10/12/2016
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