Research at the Özpolat Lab

What are the mechanisms of reproductive cell regeneration?  

Reproductive cells are the cells that become eggs and sperm, and then have the potential to give rise to a whole organism. Many organisms (such as hydra, flatworms, earth worms, or sea stars) regenerate their reproductive organs and reproductive cells as a part of whole body regeneration, while vertebrates lack this ability. The mechanisms of regenerating the reproductive cells are not understood but is one of the most impactful regeneration abilities. Understanding the mechanisms of regenerating this cell type would provide insight into the “mother of all stem cells”.

Using marine invertebrates, we want to understand different aspects of regeneration and post-embryonic growth (such as continuous segment addition in annelid worms). What are the embryonic origins of cells involved in regeneration? Can they make all cell types, or are they limited in their potential? When the cells with high potency (such as stem cells or reproductive cells) are lost, how are they replaced? To answer these questions, we combine many exciting techniques such as live-imaging, genome-editing, mRNA injections, and transgenesis. Dumeril's clam worm (Platynereis dumerilii), sea urchins, and sea stars are some of the organisms helping us answer these questions.   

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