Dr Jose Polo, Reprogramming and Epigenetics Laboratory, Monash University.
Jose Maria Polo was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina where he graduated from Buenos Aires University as a biochemist. In 2002, Jose began his graduate studies at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, New York under the supervision of Dr Ari Melnick where he worked on the transcriptional mechanism of the BCL6 repression complex in lymphomagenesis and B-cell maturation. In 2008 he obtained his PhD and moved to Boston to the laboratory of Dr Konrad Hochedlinger at the Harvard Stem Cell Institute to work on reprogramming of adult cells into induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells. During his postdoctorate he worked in the epigenetic and cellular mechanisms that govern reprogramming. In June 2011 as a Larkins Fellow, Jose joined the Monash Immunology and Stem Cell Laboratories in order to establish his independent research group.
Dr Jose Polo encourages us to think of the human genome as a library. As an epigeneticist, expert in the way changes occur in our genes beyond the basic structure of DNA, Jose believes who we are is dependent on how the smallest, most fundamental pieces of our biology are able to open and close the great books of our genetic library.
The field of epigenetics is a complex one, rooted in the mechanisms and structures of gene expression deep within our body’s cells. To the uninitiated this world can seem inaccessible, and so Jose has become accustomed to explaining just what his work entails, and how its real-world applications could shape the future of medical science. The Polo laboratory is interested in the transcriptional and epigenetic mechanisms that govern pluripotency and the reprogramming of somatic cells into induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells.
Being able to specifically reprogram a mature cellular program into a pluripotent state and from there back into another particular cellular program provides a unique tool to dissect the molecular and cellular events that permit the conversion of one cell type to another. Moreover, iPS cells and the reprogramming technology are of great interest in the pharmaceutical and clinical settings, since the technology can be used to generate animal and cellular models for the study of various diseases as well as in the future, to provide tailor made cells for patients for use in cellular replacement therapies. However, despite being one of the major growing research fields very little is known about the epigenetic and transcriptome changes occurring during this process. We are particularly interested in three aspects:
- The kinetics and universality of the epigenetic changes occurring during reprogramming.
- The in vitro and in vivo plasticity potential of the generated cells.
- The composition and assembly kinetics of transcriptional regulation complexes at pluripotency genes.
Using different molecular, biochemical and cellular techniques our lab is aiming to dissect the nature and dynamics of such events.