Current Research - Using mouse embryonic stem cells to understand cell fate decision
Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) are populations of cells derived from embryos. They can divide to produce more stem cells (self-renew) or differentiate into diverse specialized cell types within the organism.
This capability of being able to form different specialized cell types is what it is called ‘pluripotency’ and makes these cells a perfect system to study cell fate decision making as, while in culture, stem cells are continuously deciding whether to self-renew or differentiate.
How does a cell decide about this? The cell decides by measuring the strength of various signals that it detects, comparing them to its internal situation to see if it is ready to differentiate and, if so, into which cell type. Using a combination of image analysis and theoretical modelling, my research focuses in identifying and understanding the mechanisms involved in maintaining ESC pluripotency, but also that allow them to differentiate. Particularly, I’m interested in probing whether Wntch is the mechanism behind cell fate decision making in stem cells.