For my graduate studies I am interested in understanding the genetic factors that regulate cell lineage specification and cell identity in the context of mammalian development. Following the fertilization of an oocyte, this single cell undergoes several rounds of divisions to form an embryo (also called a blastocyst) that implants into the mother’s uterus. Along the way these cells decide between one fate or another. One of these fate decisions is that of the epiblast lineage – the progenitor population of the entire embryo and adult mammal. Thus, it is by definition a pluripotent cell population.
I utilize a combination of quantitative high-resolution imaging, high throughput image analysis, in vivo genetic models, including fluorescent reporter lines, and in vitro stem cells to identify factors that are involved in lineage decisions and the establishment of pluripotency. Understanding how these factors regulate cell identity and the establishment of pluripotency holds far reaching potential for stem cell biology and regenerative medicine.
My previous work deciphering the function of microRNAs in mouse neocortex development and neural stem cell differentiation (Dr. Tao Sun’s lab, Weill Cornell Medical College), and alternative 3’UTRs in oncogenesis (Dr. Christine Mayr’s lab, Sloan Kettering Institute) has provided a basis for my interest in genetic regulation of cell identities. I am able to extend my previous understanding of gene regulation to the mechanisms regulating key early developmental events in the Hadjantonakis lab.