Derek van der Kooy
Profile and Department: Professor, Molecular Genetics, University of Toronto
We are interested in the lineage steps in the development of the mammalian brain from totipotent embryonic stem (blastocyst) cells to neural stem cells to more restricted neural progenitor cells that make neurons and glia. Of particular interest are the earliest steps in the production of self-renewing neural stem cells from mouse embryonic stem cells, in terms of discovering novel and testing candidate neural determination genes. Neural stem cells also are present in adult and even elderly mammalian brains, and these stem cells are being localized in adult brains and being characterized in terms of their symmetry of division, proliferative kinetics and growth factor requirements in vivo and in vitro. Finally, new projects have isolated adult mouse and human retinal and pancreatic stem cells. There retinal and pancreatic stem cells are being characterized in terms of their in vivo identities and in terms of their abilities to reverse blindness and diabetes in mouse models.