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Suzanne Elizabeth Miller

Assistant Professor, Comparative Biosciences
Observatory Building
901 South Mathews
M/C 194
Urbana, IL  61801


  • PhD, University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • BS, University of Illinois
  • Postdoctoral Work, Cleveland Clinic, Cleveland, OH; University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, IL

Courses Taught

  • Stem Cell Journal Club (CB 420)
  • Veterinary Histology (VM603 and VM604)

Research Interests

The focus of research in my laboratory is therapy for dilated cardiomyopathy in Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). We have employed vessel-derived stem cells (ADM) as well as mesenchymal stem cells from adipose tissue in our studies, initially focusing on repairing damage to skeletal and cardiac muscle in DMD. We isolated and characterized ADM adult stem cells, and demonstrated that they regenerate skeletal muscle and stimulate new cardiomyocyte formation in dytrophin-deficient heart in an animal model for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD). ADM reduced damaged skeletal muscle fibers by 50-fold and prevented the onset of dilated cardiomyopathy in severely dystrophic mice. ADM may accomplish these benefits both directly and indirectly. Directly, ADM can be used as vehicles for gene therapy in this disease to restore dystrophin protein expression to muscle by forming new muscle cells that express dystrophin and by becoming new Schwann cells and contributing to re-innervation of damaged muscle tissue. Indirectly, ADM stimulate angiogenesis in damaged, dystrophin-deficient muscle and promote endogenous populations of stem cells to form new muscle cells. We are determining which of these mechanisms is/are necessary and sufficient for the functional benefit we have observed in the heart of murine models for Duchenne muscular dystrophy in our recent study.             

            We reported that the dystrophin-utrophin-deficient mouse model for DMD, previously regarded as an excellent phenotypic model for skeletal muscle pathology in DMD, also develops pathology, ventricular dilation, and cardiac dysfunction similar to DMD patients over a 15 week period. Using these mice, we are testing whether angiogenic agents alone, without ADM, are sufficient to prevent or alleviate cardiomyocyte damage and ventricular remodeling by way of relieving the subclinical ischemia and oxidative stress reported in the dystrophin-deficient heart. We are also pursing the role of endogenous nestin+ cardiac stem cells in progression of cardiomyopathy, and the functional benefit from ADM, in the dystrophin-utrophin-deficient heart. We are using transgenic mouse strains to isolate, overexpress, and selectively deplete nestin+ cardiac stem cells from the dystrophin-deficient heart to determine whether the nestin+ cells may be exploited to treat dilated cardiomyopathy in Duchenne muscular dystrophy. We have also developed methods to non-invasively monitor stem cells transplanted into dystrophin-deficient muscle and are collaborating with another investigator on campus to non-invasively track disease progression and the efficacy of experimental treatments for dystrophic muscle. Our long-term goal is to establish mechanisms to delay or prevent dilated cardiomyopathy in Duchenne muscular dystrophy.

Other Campus Affiliations

  • Neuroscience Program
  • Regenerative Biology and Tissue Engineering Theme, Institute for Genomic Biology



  • The role of RhoA/Rho-kinase (ROCK) signaling in mesoangioblast stem cell differentiation into myelinating glial cells in the central and peripheral nervous system, PI, University of Illinois Research Board.
  • High-resolution in vivo ultrasound imaging using VisualSonics VEVO 2100 System, Co-Investigator, NIH.
  • Therapeutic Implementation of Mesoangioblast Stem Cells in Muscular Dystrophy, PI, Illinois Regenerative Medicine Institute
  • Purchase of a Fluorescent Imaging System, PI, University of Illinois Research Board.
  • Integrin enhancement of mesoangioblast cell therapy, PI, Muscular Dystrophy Association.

Honors and Awards

  • 2004 Invited Interview, Annual Muscular Dystrophy Telethon, 2004
  • 2006 Invited Interview, Daily Illini, "Illinois to fund stem cell research"
  • 2006 Invited Interview, Channel 15 News
  • 2006 Invited Interview, Channel 17 News
  • 2006 Invited Interview, Channel l3 News
  • 2007 Invited Speaker, Translational Biomedical Seminar Series, Champaign, IL
  • 2009 Invited Interview, Daily Illini, "University research to continue using cells from adults"
  • 2011 Invited Speaker, Stem Cells World Congress 2011, San Diego, CA
  • 2011 List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent at the University of Illinois
  • 2013 Invited Speaker, 6th Annual International Stem Cells & Cell Signaling Meeting, Boston, MA
  • 2013 Invited Interview, WILL news, Champaign IL
  • 2013 List of Teachers Ranked as Excellent at the University of Illinois

Selected Publications


  •  Suzanne E. Berry.  Mesenchymal stem cell and Mesoangioblast therapy for muscular dystrophy: progress, challenges, and future directions.  Invited review, in press, Stem Cells Translational Medicine, 2014
  • Suzanne E. Berry, Peter Andruszkiewicz, Ju Lan Chun, and Jun Hong.  Nestin expression in cardiomyocytes in end-stage disease in dystrophin-deficient heart; implications for regeneration from endogenous cardiac stem cells.  Stem Cells Translational Medicine 2:848-861, 2013.  (Journal cover)
  • Liz Simon, Paul Cooke, and Suzanne E. Berry.  Aorta-derived mesoangioblasts can be differentiated into functional uterine epithelium, but not prostatic epithelium or epidermis, by instructive mesenchymes.  Cells Tissues Organs 198:169-178, 2013. (Article highlighted in Mesenchymal Cell News online)
  • Ju Lan Chun, Robert O'Brien, Minho Song, Blake F. Wondrasch, and Suzanne E. Berry.  Injection of vessel-derived stem cells prevents dilated cardiomyopathy and promotes angiogenesis and endogenous cardiac stem cell proliferation in mdx/utrn-/- but not aged mdx mouse models for Duchenne muscular dystrophy.  Stem Cells Translational Medicine 2:68-80, 2013. (Journal cover; article featured in press release from Stem Cells Translational Medicine; article featured in press release from University of Illinois, article highlighted online in Cell Therapy News, Science Newsline, Eurekalert, Stem Cell Roundup, New York Stem Cell Foundation, Biology News, Health Canal, e!Science News, and more)
  • Suzanne E. Berry.  Continued use of unproven stem cell therapies in the clinic:  the need for controlled studies that demonstrate efficacy and preclinical studies to optimize treatment.  Journal of Veterinary Science and Technology 3:e107, 2012.
  • Ju Lan Chun, Robert O'Brien, and Suzanne E. Berry.  Cardiac dysfunction and pathology in the dystorphin- and utrophin-deficient mouse during development of dilated cardiomyopathy.  Neuromuscular Disorders 22:368-379, 2012.
  • Lei Wang, Anant Kamath, Janie Frye, Gary Iwamoto, Ju Lan Chun, and Suzanne E. Berry.  Aorta-derived mesoangioblasts differentiate into oligodendrocytes by inhibition of the Rho kinase signaling pathway.  Stem Cells and Developmoent 21:1069-1089, 2012. 
  • Boris Odintsov, Ju Lan Chun, James A. Mulligan, and Suzanne E. Berry.  14.1T whole body MRI for detection of mesoangioblast stem cells in a murine model of Duchenne muscular dystrophy.  Magnetic Resonance in Medicine, 66:1704-1714, 2011.  (Article selected as feature presentation in 'Global Medical Discovery Online')
  • Suzanne E. Berry, Jianming Liu, Eric Chaney, and Stephen J. Kaufman. Mesoangioblast Stem Cell Therapy in the mdx/utrn-/- Mouse Model for Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy. Regenerative Medicine 2:275-288, 2007.

Book Chapters

  • Boris Odintsov, Ju Lan Chun, and Suzanne E. Berry.   Whole-body MRI and fluorescent microscopy for detection of stem cells labeled with superparamagnetic iron oxide (SPIO) nanoparticles and DiI following intramuscular and systemic delivery.   Methods in Molecular Biology 1052:177-193, 2013.




Professional Affiliations

Member, International Society for Stem Cell Research, 2006-present