Manipulating cell fates for regenerative medicine
The ability to program naïve cells or to reprogram differentiated cells into particular fates will open the door to the discovery of novel therapeutics for diseases such as diabetes. The goal of my lab is to understand the fundamental principles that govern the identity of a cell, and to use these principles to manipulate cell fates for regenerative medicine. In pursuit of this goal, we employ a variety of approaches including cellular programming and reprogramming through gene transduction, directed differentiation of embryonic stem (ES) cells, chemical screening, mouse genetics, adult tissue injury and regeneration, and tissue/cell transplantation.
Development, regeneration, programming and reprogramming
We take two complementary approaches to decipher the control of cell identity. To understand the intrinsic determinants, we study genes that are normally required for the generation and maintenance of pancreatic progenitor cells in the context of mouse embryogenesis and adult tissue regeneration. Complimentary to this approach, we ask whether the same logic applies to re-creation of unique cell identities through experimental manipulations such as programming and reprogramming. Our previous work focused on pluripotency reprogramming, that is, the conversion of differentiated cells to induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. We now extend our studies to broader types of reprogramming to elucidate the general principles that control the conversion between different cell identities.
In parallel to understanding the basic biology of cell identity, we aim to apply our findings to treatment of human diseases. We are interested in applying programming and reprogramming to tissue repair and cell replacement therapy. In addition, we will use this new source of patient-specific cells for mechanistic studies of diabetes as well as for the discovery of novel therapeutic intervention through high throughput chemical screens.