Identification of microRNAs, their targets and roles in human embryonic stem cells

Stem cells are a special variety of cells that can self-renew indefinitely and can become a multitude of cell types. Embryonic stem cells are the most versatile variety of stem cells and can potentially develop into any adult cell type. Many cancer researchers believe that in most (if not all) types of cancers, there is a population of cancer stem cells that actively sustain the production of cancer cells. A better understanding of stem cells is crucial in advancing knowledge of all cell types, including cancer cells. Before manipulation of embryonic stem cells can be explored as a method of treating disease, and before anti-cancer drugs that target cancer stem cells can be designed, there is a need to understand the genetic structure and the signaling pathways that maintain these cells. Ryan Morin’s research is directed at understanding how the regulation of gene expression differs between embryonic stem cells during their differentiation into other cell types. His particular focus applies new sequencing technologies to unravel the cellular complexity of the regulatory molecules known as microRNAs and their involvement in embryonic stem cell gene regulation.