Current Research and Scholarly Interests
How do cells maintain or alter quiescent, proliferative, or differentiated states? Once a cell becomes specialized for function in a particular tissue, that differentiated state is stable, yet the molecular mechanisms that control the expression of its characteristic repertoire of genes are largely dynamic. Our research is directed at understanding this apparent paradox and elucidating the nature of cell stability and cell plasticity. By perturbing the intracellular or extracellular milieu, we are probing the regulatory network that determines cell fate and how it can be altered. This knowledge is key to our understanding of nuclear reprogramming and how to enlist cells for therapeutic purposes. We are probing the fundamental regulatory mechanisms using cell fusion and dedifferentiation. We also focus on dedicated stem cells that exist in our muscle tissues to learn what goes awry as we age or suffer from genetic muscle disorders. For example, we have identified skeletal muscle stem cells and have discovered novel small molecules and niche proteins that enhance their function and expand their numbers, which is crucial for muscle regeneration. We have also determined a new role for telomeres in Duchenne muscular dystrophy, which provides novel insights into the development of the disease and treatment for it. We are developing the use of somatic cells and stem cells for therapeutic purposes - regenerative medicine.