Meet  Jared Hysinger – Tissue Navigator

When I first started as tissue navigator, I saw distance between medical research and clinical practice. Yet, conversations with families throughout the donation process have erased that distance. In medical science there is a term, “bench to bed side.”  This refers to the process of taking scientific discoveries made at a lab bench and implementing them in the context of patient care – either through improved therapies or increased awareness of the underlying biology behind human diseases. However, the role of a tissue navigator has shown that this process is not one-way.  Patients have a unique role in informing how scientists research their diseases.  By donating tissue, patients provide scientists with a real sample of their unique disease. We can compare it to others and with their own healthy tissue to find similarities and improve our treatment strategies.

One of our lab’s promising trials using GD2 CAR T cells to target DIPG cells was borne out of experiments done with patient tissue. Autopsy derived cell lines from patients showed how a molecule called GD2 was found in much higher quantities on the surface of DIPG cells compared with others.  By targeting T cells against this marker, the lab has shown promising results in reducing tumors in human patients. Yet, there is still so much more to learn and more work to be done developing these treatments.  Gift From a Child has showed me how many more important advancements like these are waiting to be made from future patient tissue.


For both the families of deceased patients and myself, conversations during the unimaginable death of a child are hard on the mind and soul. However, many families expressed they found hope and purpose in the impact their loved-one’s donation could have on science. I too, found both hope and purpose in hearing their stories. Conversations with families as a tissue navigator provided a deep meaningfulness to medical science by directly connecting the science with the patient community it impacts. While the loss of a child is unimaginable, helping families through the post-mortem donation process showed the power of the pediatric tumor community.  Working together as families, care providers, and scientists I am honored to be a part of helping prevent this tragedy from continuing to touch more families.

(Also, as an aside, the photos show the reason I love being from California. You can go from sandy beaches to snowy mountains in the same winter day and it’s sunny in both places. Would highly recommend a hike to Mount Tamalpais for anyone visiting the Bay Area and looking for an awe-inspiring vista.)

Jared Hysinger

Recent Publications from Centers of Excellence

Harmonization of Post-mortem Donations for Pediatric Brain Tumors and Molecular Characterization of Difuse Midline Gliomas

Children diagnosed with brain tumors have the lowest overall survival of all pediatric cancers.  To address the paucity of tissue for biological studies, we have established a comprehensive protocol for the coordination and processing of donated specimens at postmortem. Since 2010, 60 postmortem pediatric brain tumor donations from 26 institutions were coordinated and collected. Patient derived xenograft models and cell cultures were successfully created (76% and 44% of attempts respectively), irrespective of postmortem processing time. Histological analysis of mid-sagittal whole brain sections revealed evidence of treatment response, immune cell infiltration and the migratory path of infiltrating H3K27M DMG cells into other midline structures and cerebral lobes. Sequencing of primary and disseminated tumors confirmed the presence of oncogenic driver mutations and their obligate partners. Our findings highlight the importance of postmortem tissue donations as an invaluable resource to accelerate research, potentially leading to improved outcomes for children with aggressive brain tumors. Read Full Publication

Dr. Monje-Deisseroth and her team at Stanford University recently published a paper detailing how gliomas are able to “hijack” the brain's communication system.

Published in  Nature: High-grade gliomas are lethal brain cancers whose progression is robustly regulated by neuronal activity. Activity-regulated release of growth factors promotes glioma growth, but this alone is insufficient to explain the effect that neuronal activity exerts on glioma progression. Here we show that neuron and glioma interactions include electrochemical communication through bona fide AMPA receptor-dependent neuron–glioma synapses. Read More

Congratulations to two of our Center of Excellence teams lead by Dr Javad Nazarian and Dr. Michelle Monje on their recent groundbreaking research publication. Due in part to increased access to post-mortem tissuethe teams were able to study a larger sample of DIPG tumors.  Diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma is a lethal pediatric brain cancer characterized by H3K27M histone mutation. Nagaraja et al. characterize a large cohort of rare primary tumors and normal pontine tissue to reveal active regulatory element heterogeneity dependent upon the histone variant and cell context in which the mutation occurs. Read More

Research Breakthroughs Resulting from Autopsy Tissue

Why Autopsy Tissue is Needed to Empower Research

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