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.