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"Botryllus schlosseri, a model organism for the study of tissue regeneration and the evolution of immunity”
Wednesday Seminar will be held in Bass 122
Senior Scientist, Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine & Hopkins
Marine Station, Stanford
My research focuses on understanding the principles by which Stem cells and Immune cells coordinate and form tissues, during development, regeneration, stem cell transplantation and aging. During my graduate and postdoctoral studies, and as a senior scientist at The Stanford Institute for Stem Cell Biology, I developed the colonial chordate Botryllus schlosseri as a model system to study stem cell biology, aging and the evolution of immunity. This marine organism is uniquely attuned to this study due to: (i) being a simple invertebrate species, closely related to vertebrates with sequence homology of over 75% between human protein-encoding genes and its gene models, (ii) a transparent body that allows in vivo cell tracking, (iii) undergoes weekly cycles of stem cell mediated regeneration, where all organs and tissues are generated anew, (iv) a recognition system in which compatible colonies can fuse blood vessels to form a single colony, with stem cells from each individual competing to overtake germline and/or somatic lineages, based on genetically determined winner and loser lines. Over the last decade, I have led the Botryllus genome project and developed a novel method to obtain a synthetic long read sequence (ref 1), isolated the gene that controls self/non self-recognition (ref 2), identified Botryllus stem cells and stem cell niches (ref 3,4), characterized its immune system on the cellular and molecular levels (ref 5), and investigated the molecular clock and neurodegeneration pathways in young and old colonies (ref 6, 7). Recently, I led the Botryllus atlas project to characterize the two developmental pathways (embryogenesis and blastogenesis) revealing the unique molecular landscapes for each developmental mode (ref 8). The atlas of sexual and asexual developmental pathways, Tabula compositichordati we built includes detailed morphogenetic characterization of origin and development of nervous system, reproductive tissues, blood and endostyle. My work has opened the door to a better understanding of stem cell and immune cell properties during development, regeneration, transplantation, and aging.