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Stem Cell Biology Group

Cellular Self-Renewal and Differentiation

Guang Hu, Ph.D.
Guang Hu, Ph.D.
Principal Investigator
Tel 919-541-4755
guang.hu@nih.gov
P.O. Box 12233
Mail Drop D4-03
Durham, N.C. 27709

Research Summary

Guang Hu, Ph.D., heads the Stem Cell Biology Group within the Epigenetics and Stem Cell Biology Laboratory, and holds a secondary appointment in the NIEHS Reproductive and Developmental Biology Laboratory.

The Stem Cell Biology Group aims to understand the regulation of self-renewal and pluripotency in embryonic stem cells (ESCs). ESCs are derived from the inner cell mass of the blastocyst-stage embryo, and have two defining features: the ability to become any other cell type of the three germ layers, known as pluripotency, and the ability to proliferate indefinitely while maintaining the pluripotent state, known as self-renewal.

Because of these unique properties, ESCs are of great interest to both basic and translational research. They are used as a model system to study fate-specification during embryonic development, and they are also used to derive various cell types for disease modeling, drug discovery, and regenerative medicine. In addition, ESCs, as well as their close counterpart the induced pluripotent stem cells, also present unique opportunities for environmental health sciences. These cells have the following uses:

  • Studying the impact of environmental factors on human development
  • Deriving cell types that are normally difficult to obtain or maintain in the laboratory for toxicology studies
  • Deriving patient-specific cells to study the interactions among genetic, epigenetic, and environmental factors for diseases with complex or unknown causes

To fully realize the above potential of ESCs in basic and translational research, it is important to understand the molecular mechanisms controlling their defining characteristics: self-renewal and pluripotency. To this end, the Stem Cell Biology Group has been using a combination of functional genetics, genomics, cell biology, and developmental biology tools to identify and dissect roles of novel players in ESC self-renewal and pluripotency.

 

Figure 1. Embryonic Stem Cells (ESCs) for both basic and translational research
Figure 1. Embryonic Stem Cells (ESCs) for both basic and translational research
Transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulation
Figure 2. Transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulation of the ESC state

We have shown that the gene expression program that maintains the ESC state is tightly regulated at both the transcriptional and post-transcriptional level (Stem Cells 2012, Cell Stem Cell 2013, EMBO 2014, Cell Stem Cell 2014). We are continuing to investigate the function of these novel regulators in ESCs, other types of pluripotent stem cells, and embryonic development in mice. We are also developing new approaches to identify regulators of cell fate specification during ESC differentiation.

Major areas of research:

  • ES cell self-renewal and pluripotency
  • Somatic cell reprogramming
  • Lineage-specification during ESC differentiation
  • Adult stem cell self-renewal and differentiation
  • Embryonic development in mice

Hu earned his Ph.D. in 2003 at Baylor College of Medicine, and was a Helen Hay Whitney Foundation fellow from 2004 to 2007. He completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard Medical School under Stephen Elledge, Ph.D., before joining NIEHS in 2009. He has published 13 peer-reviewed articles in leading biomedical journals during his graduate and postdoctoral work.