Transcriptional memory and plasticity in embryonic stem cells

Regenerative medicine such as stem cell based therapy holds great promise towards addressing many diseases that afflict millions of Canadians, including many forms of cancer, muscular and neurological degenerative disorders, diabetes, and arthritis. However, this promise has yet to be fully realized. Despite the many advances in stem cell biology, little is known on the mechanisms governing stem cell identity and on how this identity can be effectively changed and applied towards its target function. The lack of understanding in basic stem cell biology not only has hindered the proper application of stem cell therapy, but has also led to the proliferation of unproven and potentially unsafe applications in many private Canadian clinics.

My research aims to bridge this gap by studying how embryonic stem cells are able to self-maintain indefinitely, while retaining the ability to differentiate into any cell type of the body. Using cutting edge technologies such as gene editing, genomics, and single molecule imaging, our group plans to dissect the molecular underpinnings that make stem cells such versatile therapeutic agents.