Stem cells give rise to and maintain many tissues. During its life, a stem cell can follow one of three fates:
- Self renew, preserving a constant pool of stem cells in the tissue
- Differentiate into another cell type
Signals from the environment — either from other cells or soluble factors — can activate a genetic program within the stem cell, inducing its differentiation into a particular cell type. The activation of a genetic program is mirrored by the silencing of other alternative genetic programs. In this way, the stem cell reaches a point where it is irreversibly committed to a particular cell fate.
Using the hematopoetic (bone marrow) stem cell as a model, Professor Garcia-Ojeda's lab studies the microenvironmental and genetic signals required for stem cell function and lymphocyte development. In particular, he is interested in the role of the transcription factor GATA-3 in the commitment and differentiation of stem cells into T cells.