Thomas Graf is Coordinator of the Differentiation and Cancer Programme at the Center for Genomic Regulation and an ICREA professor in Barcelona, Spain. His lab is interested in the role of transcription factors in hematopoiesis and leukemia, and how these regulators can induce trans-differentiation. Is blood cell differentiation a strictly hierarchical process or does more than one pathway exist for the formation of a given cell type? More specifically, how does a single transcription factor, C/EBPa, reprogram B-lymphocytes to become functional macrophages? During this process, what epigenetic changes are required to turn thousands of genes off and on, making a 'cell within a cell'? What are the common principles during induced transdifferentiation? Answering some of these questions will enhance our understanding of the connection between differentiation and cancer. They will also help designing new protocols for the controlled reprogramming of differentiated cells that might be useful for cell replacement therapies.
Read an interview with Thomas Graf by Monya Baker of Nature Stem Cell Reports (requires subscription): Cellular Identity and Transdifferentiation