Stem cells from embryonic or adult origin are the focus of intense research to understand their specific biology, in order to develop new medical treatments. The control of stem cell commitment and multipotency is a pre-requisite for the fruitful therapeutic use of adult stem cell populations.
Research in our group focuses on stem cells present in postnatal & adult tissues, to investigate their regulation and explore their differentiation potential for biomedical applications. We study adult stem cells from human and mouse models, and devise molecular and cellular methods to modulate their differentiation in vitro and in vivo. Using a combination of cell culture, transfection, gene expression anaylsis and transplantation techniques, we are analysing bone marrow-derived mesenchymal stem cells and brain-derived neural stem cells and developing novel therapeutic approaches.
What we are doing about...
1. Understanding adult stem cells
We isolate, grow and differentiate adult stem cells from different origins, to identify the key factors involved in the acquisition of a specific lineage identity. This research seeks to better understand what allows adult stem cell populations to remain in tissues throughout life, and to refine protocols to control their cell behaviour in vitro and in vivo.
2. Repairing skeletal tissues
One aspect of our research focuses on mesenchymal stem cells, which are multipotent cells present in the bone marrow. Using in vitro culture, transfection and differentiation techniques, we investigate the signalling pathways and genetic machinery regulating their differentiation potential towards mesenchymal (osteo/adipogenic) and neural lineages.
We are investigating the role of specific candidate genes in the fate choice of adult stem cells, and are involved in collaborative projects developing new tissue engineering approaches to skeletal repair.
3. Characterising brain progenitors
Another axis of our research focuses on neural stem cells, which reside in discrete locations in the adult brain. Using a mouse model, we study the distribution, properties and gene expression pattern of neural stem cells in order to determine the core features defining a cell as a neural stem cell. We are also interested in the relationship between stem cells, tissue repair and neoplasia.
Publications in leading peer-reviewed journals
Alcock J & Sottile V (2009) Dynamic distribution and stem cell characteristics of Sox1-expressing cells in the cerebellar cortex. Cell Res 19(12):1324-1333
Rashidi H, Strohbuecker S, Jackson L, Kalra S, Blake AJ, France L, Tufarelli C, Sottile V (2012) Differences in the pattern and regulation of mineral deposition in human cell lines of osteogenic and non-osteogenic origin. Cells Tissues Organs 195(6):484-94
Ghita A, Pascut FC, Mather M, Sottile V*, Notingher I*. (2012) Cytoplasmic RNA in undifferentiated neural stem cells: a potential label-free Raman spectral marker for assessing the undifferentiated status. Anal. Chem. 84(7):3155-62
France LA, Scotchford CA, Grant DM, Rashidi H, Popov A, Sottile V. (2012) Developing supportive culture conditions for cellularised osteochondral constructs: influence of transient serum exposure on the osteogenic differentiation of human mesenchymal stem cells. J Tissue Eng Regen Med. doi: 10.1002/term.1567.