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: