Department of Biochemistry,
University of California, Riverside
Understanding the mechanisms that specify and maintain the identity of over 200 cell types of the human body is key to developing strategies for regenerative medicine and to cure human diseases. Although all cells have the same genetic blueprint, they follow different developmental trajectories. Epigenetic regulators, including chromatin associated proteins and non-coding RNAs are key determinants of cell identity during this process. The mechanisms by which these molecules stabilize cell identity during normal tissue homeostasis and across generations remain poorly understood. To address this problem, my research team investigates chromatin remodeling and regulatory RNA pathways using cellular reprogramming and differentiation systems such as hematopoiesis, osteogenesis, adipogenesis and neurogenesis. Using these paradigms, we investigate genetically engineered stem and progenitor cells to identify the consequences of manipulating epigenetic pathways. Our work employs systems biology approaches, bioengineering tools, in-vivo mouse models and patient derived iPSCs to decipher the basic principles of cell identity control. The ultimate goal of our research is to apply our findings to generate clinically relevant cell types, differentiate cancer cells and extend organismal life span.