AUG 30, 2016 08:00 AM PDT

Endoderm Progenitors in Health and Disease

  • Professor, Chair of Stem Cell Sciences, Program Leader, Stem Cells Australia, The University of Melbourne, Walter and Eliza Hall Institute of Medical Research, Florey Neuroscience and Mental
      Martin Pera is Professor of Stem Cell Sciences at the University of Melbourne, the Florey Neuroscience Institute, and the Walter and Eliza Hall Institute for Medical Research. He serves as Program Leader for Stem Cells Australia, the Australian Research Council Special Research Initiative in Stem Cell Sciences. His research interests include the cell biology of human pluripotent stem cells, early human development, and germ cell tumours. Pera was among a small number of researchers who pioneered the isolation and characterisation of pluripotent stem cells from human germ cell tumours of the testis, work that provided an important framework for the development of human embryonic stem cells. His laboratory at Monash University was the second in the world to isolate embryonic stem cells from the human blastocyst, and the first to describe their differentiation into somatic cells in vitro. He has provided extensive advice to state, national and international regulatory authorities on the scientific background to human embryonic stem cell research.

    Using human pluripotent stem cells as a screening platform, we have identified a novel cell surface maker that identifies foregut endoderm progenitors in pancreas and liver.  We have shown that   cells of the biliary reaction, a regenerative response to liver damage, premalignant and pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma cells, and the columnar epithelium of Barrett’s Oesophagus, a preneoplastic precursor of oesophageal carcinoma, all express this antigen on their surface.  The antigen is expressed in liver and pancreas during development, and  is also found in the serum of patients with pancreatic or liver cancer.  Cell surface antigens expressed on fetal stem or progenitors cells provide biomarkers of tissue regenerative processes, and can be used to monitor progression neoplasia if repair processes fail to resolve the underlying pathology.

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