Our Research

Our laboratory is interested in understanding the basic mechanisms of human immune syndromes. Since a healthy immune system is essential in fighting off pathogens and diseases, an imbalance of the immune system can lead to devastating diseases. For example, the lack of a properly developed immune system exposes the body to pathogens, while an overly active immune system can lead to autoimmune diseases. We are interested in understanding the development and function of a key educational organ system, the thymus, in this context. To this end, we use pluripotent stem cells to recapitulate the development of thymic epithelial cells and to construct stem cell-based human immune disease models. We envision that while some aspects of human diseases can be dissected in vitro, higher order cellular interactions as found in autoimmunity will be more closely recapitulated in humanized mouse models.

diseasemodel

We use a directed differentiation approach that aims to recapitulate developmental cell fate decisions in vitro. Using this approach we direct human pluripotent stem cells through developmental differentiation intermediates toward pharyngeal derivatives. We are particularily interested in identifying conditions that allow for the generation of functionally mature thymic epithelial cells, a cell type implicated in autoimmunity and certain immunodeficiencies. To define the factors that are involved in the differentiation process we use discovery and candidate approaches. The latter are often guided by developmental studies in mouse models.