Our interests lie in the early formation of the avian germ cell lineage during embryogenesis. We seek to understand how germ cell lineage is first established, migrates and interacts with its niche in the forming gonad. A unique characteristic of germ cells is the ability to de-differentiate into pluripotent cells under certain culture conditions. We are attempting to understand the mechanisms controlling this process. This research will provide general insights into the establishment and maintenance of stem cell populations during development.
We utilize a distinct culture system developed for avian primordial germ cells which allows these cells to be expanded indefinitely in vitro. We are currently defining the minimal culture conditions needed for the self-renewal of an avian germ cell. This unique culture system has permitted us to establish primordial germ cell lines for in vitro and in vivo analysis. These lines are being used to define the factors important for germ cell self-renewal, gene targeting, and to develop novel methods for the cryopreservation (bio-banking) of avian species.