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We use several model organisms, including chicks and mice, to study the molecular mechanisms underlying the development of the endoderm, which gives rise to the lining of the esophagus, stomach and intestines as well as the lungs, pancreas and liver.
The genes and signaling mechanisms that we identify in our embryonic studies are being used to promote the differentiation of embryonic and adult stem cells into therapeutically important cell types such as insulin-producing beta cells.
Stem cells are a promising renewable source of cells for transplantation to treat human diseases such as type 1 diabetes.
Why Study Endoderm Development?
Thousands of children a year are born with congenital gastrointestinal malformations. Understanding endoderm development has been critical for discovery of molecular diagnostics of birth defects and for advances in directing stem cell differentiation into pancreas, liver and intestinal tissue.
Differentiation of Pluripotent Embryonic Stem Cells
We were the first to create functioning human intestinal tissue in the laboratory from pluripotent stem cells.
We study how embryological pathways are utilized to maintain cellular homeostasis in conditions such as type 1 diabetes and cancer.
Our goal is to translate information from embryonic studies to promote the differentiation of pluripotent stem cells (PSCs) into therapeutically important cell types.
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We investigate the molecular mechanisms that underlie the development of endodermally derived organs including the pancreas, biliary system and intestine.
"To grow distal stomach through what is called directed differentiation, the team used a precise combination of signaling by important developmental pathways — including FGF (fibroblast growth factor), Wnt (protein signaling pathway), and BMP (bone morphogenetic protein)."
Read the entire article in Research Horizons.
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