Evolutionary origin of stem cells and the emergence of animal complexity (2016–2019)
All animals, from the simplest to the most complex, rely on stem cells to replenish, repair and regenerate tissues. Stem cells also are often a conduit to malignant tumours. This project seeks to uncover the cardinal rules governing stem cell formation through the study of a simple and ancient animal ¿¿¿ the marine sponge Amphimedon queenslandica. Armed with an array of genomic resources and experimental tools, and a means to induce cells to become pluripotent stem cells, Amphimedon provides a tractable system to uncover the mechanisms underlying stem cell formation. Combining insights from sponge stem cells with existing knowledge of stem cell specification in humans and other animals, the essential features of this process will be revealed.