Research Interests :
Transcriptional control of embryonic stem cells
Embryonic stem (ES) cells provide a unique avenue to study genes that are involved in the earliest stages of differentiation during embryo development. My lab is primarily focused on identification of genes and regulatory pathways that control embryonic stem cell growth and differentiation. We have generated a comprehensive map of the transcriptome from ES cells using genome-wide expression technologies. We have focused particular attention on a set of transcription factors that are uniquely expressed in ES cells and likely play an important role in determining the differentiation status of these cells. Functional genomic approaches are being applied to dissect the transcriptional networks that are governed by these known and novel transcription factors, for example REST, Zic3, Zfp281 and Zfp206. The influence these and other transcription factors have on ES cells is then monitored by transcriptional profiling and functional assessment of differentiation capability. Direct targets for key transcription factors are being identified by chromatin precipitation (ChIP) experiments. We are also looking at the epigenetic changes that are mediated by the binding of these transcription factors. The activity of many of these genes is being exploited to drive lineage-specific differentiation of human ES cells and human iPS (induced pluripotent stem) cells to better understand the molecular events that underlie early embryonic development and cellular differentiation. Our long-term goal is to derive patient-specific cell types by in vitro differentiation of ES and iPS cells to better understand and treat degenerative diseases in man.