Evolution of cell types during mammalian pregnancy
We have isolated and are culturing endometrial stromal fibroblasts cells (ESFs) from the uterus of the opossum Monodelphis domestica. We conduct comparative analyses of this cell type with distantly-related ESFs from placental mammals to determine what makes each cell type tick. One goal is to reconstruct the ancestral cell type from which these modern cell types descend to help us understand how cell types are rewired and how new cells types arise during evolution.
Gene regulatory networks directing a terminal cell fate decision in humans
In preparation for implantation of the embryo, the lining of the human uterus swells and ESFs, which inhabit the uterus, undergo morphological and functional changes, becoming plump and round glycogen-filled cells known as decidual stromal cells (DSCs).