Our Cellular Reprogramming Laboratory focuses in two aspects of developmental biology:
Nuclear Transfer Cloning. A number of different laboratories, including our own, have demonstrated that a somatic (body) cell, once fused with an egg, is capable of generating not only stem cells (1) but a whole new organism as well (2-4). Interestingly, we still do not comprehend how this is possible. Our laboratory focuses on understanding the molecular events that lead to the transformation of a somatic nucleus into an embryonic-pluripotent one. Insights into the mechanism of de-differentiation will help us generate cloned animals at optimal efficiency for their use in agriculture and medicine (5).
Primate Embryonic Stem Cells. Embryonic stem (ES) cells are capable of maintaining an undifferentiated or pluripotentstate in vitro. At the same time, by modifying the culture conditions, they can generate daughter cells capable of forming all the tissues in the body. We have demonstrated that somatic cells can be turned into ES cells either by nuclear transfer (cloning) (1) or by parthenogenesis (6) and that these cells can later be induced to differentiate into multiple complex tissues (6). In order for us to understand how the state of pluripotency is reached and maintained, ES cells are carefully analyzed at the molecular level. Our challenge is now to learn how to produce these cells without having to relay on eggs (7).