DEVELOPMENTAL STEM CELL BIOLOGY. Within most tissues of the body are resident stem cells that, although rare, are tasked with supporting entire cell lineages through a dynamic balance of two fundamental responsibilities. First, stem cells must produce daughter cells to either establish a lineage or replace cells continually lost due to terminal differentiation, injury, or aging. Second, stem cells must also maintain their respective reservoir through self-renewal to ensure tissue longevity. These responsibilities are bestowed upon a few elite cells. The mechanisms that govern which cells are destined, or fated, to become stem cells during prenatal development remains largely unknown but can have a tremendous and long-lasting influence on the health and state of tissues.
Our laboratory is focused on understanding both the formation of stem cell populations and their survival in adulthood. Specifically, we are interested in stem cells of the male germline, which are the only stem cells that contribute genetic and epigenetic information to the next generation in the form of sperm. Males germline stem cells are commonly referred to as spermatogonial stem cells, or SSCs. We know from studies in rodent models that the foundational SSC population is formed shortly after birth. During prenatal development, SSC precursors face numerous selective pressures and the path to forming an SSC involves several alternate fates, including meiotic catastrophe, terminal differentiation, apoptosis, and cancer. The underlying processes involving selection and retention of some germ cells as SSCs remains unknown and the downstream influence on inheritance is largely unexplored.
Specific Research Areas
- Understand the underlying molecular framework that controls fate determination and formation of SSCs and other stem cell populations.
- Determine the pressures that select for only a subset of cells to form stem cells.
- Study the clonal dynamics of SSCs during prenatal development, homeostasis, times of stress and regeneration, and postnatal aging.
Our goal is to better understand the core mechanisms that control SSC function and fate with the hope of identifying the underlying etiologies of male-factor infertility, generating novel discoveries for approaches to in vitro gametogenesis, and understanding the broader influence of germline fate decisions on overall inheritance among humans and livestock.
For a complete list of publications, please visit https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/myncbi/1byJpn6mn4H5w/bibliography/public/