Black Family Stem Cell Institute

Germline Stem Cells

The oocyte, when fertilized, can generate every cell in an organism. Efforts to understand and harness the reprogramming potential of this “mother of all stem cells” gave rise to modern day stem cell research.

Reproductive success relies on proper establishment and maintenance of the germline and sex-specific differentiation of germ cells to produce oocytes in females and sperm in males. Defects in germ cell differentiation can lead to infertility or germ cell tumors.

Black Family Stem Cell Institute laboratories strive to understand the mechanisms that regulate specification and maintenance of the germline. A key goal is to decipher conserved genes that contribute to renewal, plasticity, and differentiation of germ cells—which has implications for fertility, including disorders of sex development, premature ovarian insufficiency, and polycystic ovary syndrome—and for reproductive cancers of the male and female reproductive systems.

Investigators with a major focus in germline stem cell biology include:

Florence Marlow, PhD

Florence Marlow, PhD, is an Associate Professor of Cell, Developmental, and Regenerative Biology, Co-director of the Development, Regeneration, and Stem Cells training area for graduate students, and an Associate Director for the Medical Scientist Training Program, all at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. Her team uses genetic, molecular, cell biological, and embryological approaches to investigate the molecular pathways and cell biological events that regulate specification and maintenance of the germline and that maintain polarity and function in oocytes and in neurons. Her lab identified RNAbps that interact with a key regulator of oocyte polarity and identified novel factors required for sex-specific differentiation of germline cells.

Ongoing research interests include:

  • Determining how RNAbps control sex-specific differentiation of germline stem cells
  • Performing genetic and cell biological analyses of the specialized cell divisions of germline stem cells and their immediate daughters
  • Exploring how RNAbps regulate buckyball and oocyte polarity
  • Analyzing mitochondrial bottlenecks in the germline
  • Studying microglia involvement in shaping neural circuits underlying complex behaviors in juveniles and adults



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