A central obstacle in stem cell biology is revealing signaling pathways that drive stem cells to mature into differentiated daughter cells or proliferate into more stem cells (self renewal). Some genes that promote self-renewal also promote some forms of cancer. A subpopulation of cells within solid tumors exhibit stem cell-like properties, including resistance to cell death and exhibiting self-renewal. Reviewing published databases of gene expression profiles for glioblastomas and neural stem cells (NSC), we identified genes shared in both populations, including the gene ZSCAN21. Using in ovo electroporation of the chick embryonic spinal cord to overexpress ZSCAN21, we monitor if it is sufficient to promoting self-renewal using immunohistochemistry and comparative anatomical analysis. If ZSCAN21 sufficiently promotes self-renewal, overexpression of the gene should elevate markers for progenitor cells, possibly at expense of markers for differentiated cells (neurons and glia).
Faculty Mentor: Merritt Taylor, Biomedical Sciences