Departments: Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Toronto
The focus of my laboratory is to develop stem cells for clinical use with the long term goal of establishing them as the standard therapy for disease treatment. However, there are a number of hurdles that need to be overcome in order for stem cells to be considered for therapeutic use: 1) safety issues 2) sufficient cell numbers 3) easily accessible sources 4) efficient mode of delivery to the target organs and 5) demonstrated functional improvement after transplantation. The research in my laboratory aims to solve some of these problems through development of umbilical cord blood (UCB) stem cells for broad therapeutic use. We have established culture conditions that lead to the reprogramming of UCB stem cells to multi-potential cells. We are currently examining the epigenetic changes that occur during this event to determine whether reprogramming occurs in a predictable manner, if it involves changes in higher order chromatin structures and if it is stable. Specifically, we are interested in the roles of Oct4 and Nanog in initiating and maintaining the multi-potential properties of the reprogrammed UCB cells and whether the gene expression patterns are similar to those of human embryonic stem cells. Furthermore, we are also investigating the role FGF plays in both the reprogramming event as well as the maintenance of these cells in a multi-potential state. The information collected from this research will allow us to improve the frequency of reprogramming, leading to the production of clinically significant numbers of UCB stem cells.