Dr. Eilertsen’s lab focuses on understanding mechanisms of reprogramming induced by 1) somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) and 2) dedifferentiating adult somatic and stem/progenitor cells to a state equivalent to an embryonic stem (or, pluripotent) cell. In addition, we are identifying novel methods and approaches to reprogram cells.
Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer
My lab’s early efforts focused on developing genomic-scale molecular and mathematical models of SCNT induced reprogramming using gene expression patterns derived from preimplantation embryos and somatic donor cell lines. For example, we identified ~360 genes that indicated the likelihood of full term development of cattle embryos produced by SCNT. Similarly, our lab has identified a group of genes that predict whether a cell line is competent to be reprogrammed using SCNT. Our current efforts are focused on identifying epigenetic gene and protein targets and signaling pathways that can be manipulated using a variety of approaches that improve SCNT reprogramming efficiencies. Examples of approaches include the identification and development of small molecules and interfering RNA.
Somatic/Adult/Progenitor Cell Reprogramming
To further address the challenges of reprogramming, and to eventually realize the promises of this technology, our research program also focuses on elucidating and understanding mechanisms of reprogramming somatic and adult stem/progenitor cells to a pluripotent state (the ability of a cell to differentiate into all tissues of an organism). Ongoing studies include the identification of methods to induce expression of key genes such as Oct4, Sox2 and Nanog; identification of small molecules that improve reprogramming efficiency; development of novel culture conditions; and improving livestock SCNT efficiency by reprogramming donor cells to a less differentiated state.
Biotech and Economic Development
Bioscience has become a high-priority economic development goal throughout the U.S. The field of bioscience encompasses several different activities along a common theme: application of biology and medical knowledge to problems affecting the human or societal condition. Some key 2007 economic findings about the biotechnology sector in the U.S. are: total employment impact is 7.5 million jobs; job growth outpaces the total private sector by over two percent; average annual wages exceed $70K; venture capital investments exceed $11.5 billion; and over 82,000 bioscience-related patents awarded since 2002. [Sources: Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA); United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO); Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO); Baton Rouge Area Chamber White Paper: Advancing PBRC to Preeminence: Securing Louisiana’s Knowledge-based Economic Foundation.] In 2004, Dr. Eilertsen Co-founded NuPotential Inc. to develop cell reprogramming technology. NuPotential has received over $3MM in venture funding (LA1 Fund, Themelios and La Tech Park Fund), $3MM in NIH funding and $300K from a Louisiana Industrial Ties grant.