Jean-Claude Labbé and his team study the fundamental mechanisms governing cell division during the course of animal development. They specifically focus on studying the different properties of germline stem cells in a classic model organism: the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans.
Cell division is a fundamental process for the development and survival of multi-cellular organisms. During the course of embryogenesis in animals, for example, cell division allows the number of cells to expand. These cells can thereupon acquire various properties and thus generate a complex organism, made up of distinct tissues and organs. In adults, cell division, including that of stem cells, sustains the regeneration of these tissues and organs, thus ensuring survival of the organism.
The nematode C. elegans is an ideal model for studying cell division during development, in large part because its transparency permits real-time imaging of the molecular events that occur during division of its germline stem cells.
By studying these molecular events in detail, Jean-Claude Labbé and his team seek to improve the understanding of the fundamental processes governing adult stem cell division in general, as well as the disfunctions that can result in aberrant cell proliferation, a defect that can lead to tumor development and cancer.
Jean-Claude Labbé and his team use the nematode Caenorhabditis elegans as model to study the different properties of germline stem cells.
One of these properties is stem cell self-renewal. Like all types of stem cells, C. elegans germline stem cells undergo self-renewal through contact with their niche, a single cell named DTC. The group seeks to understand how these germline stem cells polarize and orient their division axis to maintain contact with the niche, and thus ensure a balance between self-renewal and differentiation.
Another property of germline stem cells studied in the group is their organization as a syncytium, a conserved cellular architecture in which multiple cell nuclei share a common cytoplasm. The group seeks to understand the molecular mechanisms that control syncytial architecture formation, expansion and maintenance, in order to decipher the fundamental principles that govern this type of tissue organization.
As most C. elegans genes controlling cell division have a human homolog, findings made using the nematode may guide our understanding of gene function in several diseases, including cancer.