The application of genomics technologies to explore stem cell biology has been a pillar of research at the GIS since its inception. Stem cells have the unique and defining characteristics of unlimited self-renewal and the capacity to differentiate into progeny cells of specialised functions. This has spawned heightened interest in using stem cells for a variety of applications in the field of regenerative medicine. By combining expertise in cell biology, developmental biology, genomics technologies and bioinformatics, we have established a remarkable track record in dissecting the regulatory networks that control stem cell function. Our work has led to fundamental discoveries in how cell fates are specified during normal development and provided key insights into the molecular basis of cellular reprogramming. Having gained a firm understanding of how cell fates are controlled, we are now capitalising upon this knowledge. Directed differentiation of stem cells now allows us to generate human cells and multicellular tissues in a culture dish.
For example, the teams are now growing human neurons, liver cells, and heart cells from both healthy individuals as well as patients who are afflicted with debilitating genetic diseases. This line of research is yielding a trove of information about the molecular basis of many diseases, which we are translating into novel diagnostics and therapeutics through partnerships with clinicians and pharmaceutical companies. We are also taking advantage of new genome editing technologies to introduce and repair genetic variations in stem cells and their differentiated progeny to study the function of these genes in biology and disease.