Embryonic stem cells (ESCs) possess remarkable abilities, such as indefinite self-renewal and multi-lineage differentiation, making them a boundless resource for cell-based therapies. However, the establishment and maintenance of cell identity pose challenges for regenerative medicine. The intricate mechanisms governing cell fate decisions on a genome-wide scale remain largely uncharted territory. Fortunately, cellular reprogramming has emerged as a groundbreaking process, offering new insights into the fundamental basis of cell identity for both scientific exploration and therapeutic applications. By inducing somatic cells to a pluripotent state through the ectopic expression of four transcription factors (Oct4, Sox2, Klf4, and c-Myc), induced pluripotent stem cell (iPSC) technology presents an ethical alternative to human embryonic stem cells (hESCs) and holds tremendous promise for personalized medicine through the use of patient-specific iPSCs. Beyond ethical considerations, iPSC technology opens up vast possibilities in cell therapies, human disease modeling, drug testing, drug discovery, toxicity screening, and novel therapeutic approaches, both for general and personalized medicine. Though safety concerns must be addressed, such as avoiding epigenetic aberrations associated with potential tumor formation, recent strides and significant findings have solidified the value of iPSCs in enhancing our understanding of disease etiology and paving the way for effective treatments.
Our global aim is focused on understanding how regulatory information encoded by the genome is integrated with the epigenetic and epitranscriptomic machineries to control cellular plasticity in the context of pluripotency, and how perturbations of these mechanisms could be associated with development and disease. Some of the ongoing questions we are interested in studying are:
What molecular programs govern the unleashing of pluripotent cells' full therapeutic potential?
How do dietary perturbations impact epigenetic, epitranscriptomic and metabolic regulation, potentially hindering the generation of safe iPSCs from elderly donors?
Can we manipulate the influence of obesity and aging in induced reprogramming technology to achieve cellular rejuvenation without compromising cell identity?
For this purpose, we are employing a broad combination of methods of cell and molecular biology, genome interventions, high-throughput genomic and proteomic approaches, and bioinformatics