Induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) cells are somatic cells that have been reprogrammed to the pluripotent state. iPS cells have been established from various somatic cell types through various reprogramming methods. In addition to pluripotency, iPS cells can also proliferate limitlessly in culture. These and other features compare well with embryonic stem (ES) cells, which is why there is great excitement about iPS cells as a technology for new medical treatments. However, the cellular characters of iPS cells are not completely same as those of ES cells and even between iPS cell lines. Our focus is to understand the cause of the variability so that we can prepare iPS cell lines suitable for clinical use. Our specific research subjects are listed below.
1.Methods to control the maturity of differentiated cells
We are developing protocols to efficiently differentiate iPS cells into cardiomyocytes and hematopoietic cells and methods for their transplantation. In addition, we are working on ways that control the maturity of the derived cells, as mature cells are required for drug discovery and toxicity studies.
2. Disease-specific iPS cells
iPS cells are invaluable for disease models, as they can be designed to recapitulate disease phenotypes in vitro. We are using iPS cells to study cardiac diseases (e.g. cardiomyopathies) and hematopoietic diseases (e.g. myelodysplastic syndrome). Furthermore, we are using gene editing technology, such as TALENs and CRISPR/Cas9, to modify iPS cells from diseased patients. We then differentiate the edited and unedited iPS patient cells into the cell type of interest and compare the phenotypes. Our goal is to develop new therapies to treat such diseases.
3. Investigation into mechanisms determining the differentiation capacity of ES/iPS cells.
ES/iPS cell clones show variable differentiation capacity to different somatic cell types. We are investigating the mechanisms that govern these differences by comparing the behavior of the cell lines during differentiation into cardiomyocytes and hematopoietic cells. The goal of this project is to establish iPS cell clones suitable for clinical applications.