My lab studies processes that regulate cell division. We learned about the factors that the mother contributes to the oocyte that are essential for early embryonic development. Now we want to learn about the factors contributed by the sperm that are also essential for early embryonic development. One such sperm factor is called SPE-11 in C. elegans. Scientists use C. elegans, a roundworm, to study animal development.
We focus on the SPE-11 protein, which is essential for the embryo to develop. In C. elegans, sperm donate SPE-11 to the embryo. Scientists only recently discovered SPE-11 and know very little about it. Our team wants to know how SPE-11 influences development of the embryo. We are studying what controls SPE-11 and identifying how it interacts with other molecules.
Our research also focuses on the C. elegans orthologs of human genes. Orthologs are genes that retain the same function in different species. Thousands of human diseases are caused by mutations in our genes. By studying mutated orthologs in the roundworm, we hope to learn more about how these genes function during development. This knowledge should help further our understanding of the function of these genes in humans. What we learn may be useful for developing therapies for human disease.