An oocyte, a single cell, can ultimately yield a complex organism that contains many distinct cell types with specialized functions, be it a cow or a human. Within a relatively short time after fertilization, this single cell must divide and multiply into an embryo capable of interacting with the mother and establishing a pregnancy. Each embryonic cell must pass through critical developmental checkpoints that are involved in determining whether to become an interior cell (contributing to the formation of the fetus) or an outer cell (contributing to the placenta). These early decision points are just the first of many yet to come. Without this decision-making process, the plants and animals that surround us would not exist. We would not exist. Yet, despite the importance of these decision checkpoints, we do not fully understand the processes involved.
The Keefer lab uses cellular and molecular approaches to study the network of transcription factors that are involved in the maintenance of pluripotency and cell lineage determination in preimplantation embryos and embryonic stem cells. Our research will provide new insights into the basis of embryonic loss and provide schemes for improving reproductive efficiencies in livestock following traditional and assisted (cloning/transgenics) reproduction.
- Preimplantation development
- Pluripotency/Lineage determination
- Embryonic stem cells
- Nuclear transfer/transgenics