LMS Seminar Series – Francesca Spagnoli
Engineering pancreatic cells: cell fate choices and plasticity
Cell identities are assigned by the interplay of extrinsic signals and intrinsic determinants. My main research interest is in understanding the mechanisms regulating cell identity and plasticity of key metabolic organs, such as the pancreas and the liver. We use a combination of genetic approaches with genomic strategies and imaging in mouse embryos and human stem cells to study how distinct cell types, such as liver and pancreas, arise from common progenitors and acquire specialized shape to form functional organs. What is the gene regulatory network upstream of the fate decision between liver and pancreas? Is the establishment of distinct cellular identities and morphogenetic programs interdependent? How plastic are these cellular states? Can we harness cell plasticity between liver and pancreas towards novel regenerative therapies for diabetes? Ultimately, the long-term goal of our research is to translate these concepts into a better understanding of the pathogenesis as well as treatment options of diabetes.