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This week we profile a recent publication in Development from Matthew Shannon (pictured, right)
in Dr. Alexander Beristain’s (left) lab at BC Children’s Hospital Research Institute and UBC.

Matthew Shannon
Matthew Shannon

Can you provide a brief overview of your lab’s current research focus?

Our lab is interested in the cellular and molecular processes that direct early development of the human placenta, with a specific focus on trophoblast cell biology. We currently apply cutting edge bioinformatics, 3D culture systems, and molecular biology approaches to study:

  1. Trophoblast-intrinsic factors that regulate cell motility and early organ development
  2. Maternal derived factors (predominantly immune cells) that play underlying roles in dictating trophoblast fitness and function
  3. Global gene expression and gene regulatory mechanisms specific to highly-specialized invasive subsets of trophoblasts

What is the significance of the findings in this publication?

Our findings have identified a novel cell surface marker of a human trophoblast progenitor cell population through bioinformatic and molecular biology techniques. This finding allows for improved methods for isolating and studying the mechanisms regulating these cells, their differentiation, and overall human placenta development. We hope that future experiments will be able to capitalize on the identification of this new marker through which these cells can be isolated and further studied.

What are the next steps for this research?

Future work is needed to clarify how increased BCAM expression facilitates improved trophoblast growth, and the exact molecular paths through which this occurs. We are now in the process of optimizing an approach to knockout the BCAM gene using the CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing system, allowing us to further dissect the role BCAM plays in progenitor trophoblast biology and development.

If you’d like to mention your funding sources, please list them.

This work was generously supported by funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research, and the British Columbia Children’s Hospital.

 

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