Stem Cell Program Labs

Zebrafish Genomics Core

How does genomic research relate to the exploration of stem cells as a potential tool for the discovery of effective disease therapies? A key functional property of stem cells is their ability to simultaneously self-renew and generate many different cell types with distinct biological functions throughout the life of an individual organism.

A complex control network of signals in stem cells and their environment regulates this unique characteristic. One of the goals of the Stem Cell Program at Boston Children’s Hospital is to identify important functional regulatory factors and networks in stem cells and their environment at a molecular and genomic level, using a systems biology approach.

Genome research projects have provided a vast amount of genome sequence information from many different organisms, including humans, mice and zebrafish. More importantly, these projects have revolutionized how biological experiments are designed, executed, analyzed and interpreted. The next generation sequencing technology in combination with chromatin structure assays, such as DNA methylation, ChIP, and DNase I hypersensitivity, facilitates more comprehensive studies of critical gene regulations in stem cells. Genomics and systems biology concepts and technologies permit systematic examinations of many important factors involved in cells and whole organisms.

The application of these research tools and experimental approaches to stem cell research will allow a comprehensive analysis of stem cell properties and provide a more complete understanding of the genes and biological pathways involved in defining these characteristics. This knowledge will be critical to our approaches in using stem cells for developing clinical therapies.

The Zebrafish Genome Project is in physical proximity to the hESC Core Facility, a FACS core, a zebrafish mutant and transgenic core, and a mouse transgenic and knockout core at Children’s Hospital. The daily interactions among these cores and facilities provide unique opportunities for productive inter-disciplinary interactions, supports, and explorations.



  • See-through fish reveal how transplants “take”

    While transplants of blood-forming stem cells help cancer patients rebuild healthy blood, some transplants don’t “take,” for reasons unknown. Now, researchers at Children’s Hospital Boston have created a zebrafish whose skin is transparent—allowing scientists to directly observe how transplanted stem cells migrate to the bone marrow, engraft, and build new blood. Read more.