Department: Molecular Genetics, University of Toronto
Lab: Ellis Lab
Our research objective is to generate the safest and most effective retrovirus and lentivirus vectors for manipulating stem cells during regenerative medicine. We discover epigenetic mechanisms that control transgene expression and that silence retrovirus vectors in stem cells, and apply this knowledge to improve vector design. The study of retrovirus silencing pathways in embryonic stem cells provides a window on the epigenetic control of endogenous genes and repeat sequences. The use of insulators, Locus Control Regions and other powerful regulatory elements allows us to construct effective viral vectors for gene therapy of Sickle Cell Anemia and Rett Syndrome in hematopoietic stem cells and neural stem cells respectively. We are now creating novel vectors that express highly in embryonic stem cells but extinguish during differentiation. These promising vectors may have exciting applications as pluripotency markers to facilitate the generation of induced Pluripotent Stem (iPS) cells, for enhancing directed differentiation, or for ablating undifferentiated cells to prevent teratoma formation.