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Personal profile

Biography

Dr Jose Polo encourages us to think of the human genome as a library. As an epigeneticist, expert in the way changes occur in our genes beyond the basic structure of DNA, Jose believes who we are is dependent on how the smallest, most fundamental pieces of our biology are able to open and close the great books of our genetic library.

The field of epigenetics is a complex one, rooted in the mechanisms and structures of gene expression deep within our body's cells. To the uninitiated this world can seem inaccessible, and so Jose has become accustomed to explaining just what his work entails, and how its real-world applications could shape the future of medical science.

At its most fundamental, Jose's work is driven by a desire to identify what really makes a cell a cell.

While different cells of the body have the potential to make different organs, the genomes, a catalogue of our hereditary information encoded as DNA are exactly the same.

'How is the cell of the skin different to the cell of the heart?" Jose says.

"The answer is not the genome, which is common throughout the body, but the genes that are expressed. There is no such thing as naked DNA, it is inside a nucleus and wrapped around neucleosomes and forming different complexes with proteins giving rise to the chromatin. This packaging determines the transcription or 'readibility' of the genes.

Through this concept of a gene's readability Jose's interpretation of the genome as a library takes shape.

'Both skin cells and heart cells have the same library - what is different are the books that can be read," Jose says.

"If each book is a gene, then whatever book is open is going to be transcribed. So if the keratinocyte (skin cells) books are open they get read and the cell become a keratinocyte,' Jose says.

Jose's work involves studying how these genetic books are opened and closed. He believes it is this process that makes us what we are - and what gives the cell its identity. And it this belief that offers a new direction for medical science.

Jose's desire to pursue this new line of thinking led him to leave his native Argentina for the US to do his PhD at Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Under the surpevision of Dr. Ari Melnick, he investigated how a family of transcription factors inhibit the reading of certain genes and led to the development of an anti-lymphoma agent. This is now going to clinical trials to be developed into a therapeutic.

He then was recruited to the group of Konrad Hochedlinger at Harvard University to work in the epigenetic and cellular mechanisms that govern reprogramming of adults cells into induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells.

His worked attracted the interest of the Monash community in Australia and he is currently group leader in the Department of Anatomy and Developmental Biology. Further developing his genetic ideas into the realm of stem cell science, Jose is exploring the possibilities that will come out of the department's collaborative environment. He has already planned collaborations with researchers within the centre, as well as at the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute, CSIRO, the University of Michigan and Cornell University.

Research interests

The laboratory of reprogramming and epigenetics is led by Dr. Jose M. Polo who has recently relocated to Monash from Harvard University and has established his own research group.

The laboratory is interested in the transcriptional and epigenetic mechanisms that govern pluripotency and the reprogramming of somatic cells into induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells.

Being able to specifically reprogram a mature cellular program into a pluripotent state and from there back into another particular cellular program provides a unique tool to dissect the molecular and cellular events that permit the conversion of one cell type to another. Moreover, iPS cells and the reprogramming technology are of great interest in the pharmaceutical and clinical settings, since the technology can be used to generate animal and cellular models for the study of various diseases as well as in the future, to provide tailor made cells for patients for use in cellular replacement therapies. However, despite being one of the major growing research fields very little is known about the epigenetic and transcriptome changes occurring during this process. We are particularly interested in three aspects:

  1. The kinetics and universality of the epigenetic changes occurring during reprogramming.
  2. The in vitro and in vivo plasticity potential of the generated cells.
  3. The composition and assembly kinetics of transcriptional regulation complexes at pluripotency genes.

Using different molecular, biochemical and cellular techniques our lab is aiming to dissect the nature and dynamics of such events.

Keywords

  • pluripotent stem cells
  • iPS cells
  • reprogramming
  • bioinformatics
  • transcription factors
  • epigenetics

Network Recent external collaboration on country level. Dive into details by clicking on the dots.

Projects 2011 2022

Research Output 2004 2018

Fine tuning of canonical Wnt stimulation enhances differentiation of pluripotent stem cells independent of β-catenin-mediated T-cell factor signalling

Chen, J., Nefzger, C. M., Rossello, F., Sun, Y. B. Y., Lim, S. M., Liu, X., De Boer, S., Knaupp, A. S., Li, J., Davidson, K. C., Polo, J. M. & Barberi, T., Jun 2018, In : Stem Cells. 36, 6, p. 822-833 12 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Identification of dynamic undifferentiated cell states within the male germline

La, H. M., Mäkelä, J-A., Chan, A-L., Rossello, F. J., Nefzger, C. M., Legrand, J. M. D., De Seram, M., Polo, J. M. & Hobbs, R. M., 19 Jul 2018, In : Nature Communications. 9, 1, 18 p., 2819.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Open Access
File

SRSF3 promotes pluripotency through Nanog mRNA export and coordination of the pluripotency gene expression program

Ratnadiwakara, M., Archer, S. K., Dent, C. I., Ruiz De Los Mozos, I., Beilharz, T. H., Knaupp, A. S., Nefzger, C. M., Polo, J. M. & Anko, M-L., 2018, (Accepted/In press) In : eLife.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Open Access
File

TFAP2C regulates transcription in human naive pluripotency by opening enhancers

Pastor, W. A., Liu, W., Chen, D., Ho, J., Kim, R., Hunt, T. J., Lukianchikov, A., Liu, X., Polo, J. M., Jacobsen, S. E. & Clark, A. T., 1 May 2018, In : Nature Cell Biology. 20, 5, p. 553-564 12 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Cell Type of Origin Dictates the Route to Pluripotency

Nefzger, C. M., Rossello, F. J., Chen, J., Liu, X., Knaupp, A. S., Firas, J., Paynter, J. M., Pflueger, J., Buckberry, S., Lim, S. M., Williams, B., Alaei, S., Faye-Chauhan, K., Petretto, E., Nilsson, S. K., Lister, R., Ramialison, M., Powell, D. R., Rackham, O. J. L. & Polo, J. M., 5 Dec 2017, In : Cell Reports. 21, 10, p. 2649-2660 12 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

Open Access
File

Activities 2011 2017

  • 13 Peer review responsibility
  • 3 Contribution to conference
  • 1 Contribution to workshop, seminar, course

Co-Chair of the Reprogramming Symposium, Stem Cells Stream at ComBio - ASBMB 2017, Adelaide

Jose Polo (Organiser)
2017

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesContribution to workshop, seminar, course

Chair of the Pluripotency Symposium, Stem Cells Stream at ComBio - ASBMB 2014

Jose Polo (Organiser)
2014

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesContribution to conference

Lead organizer of the Australasian Society for Stem Cell Research Annual Meeting. November 2014

Jose Polo (Organiser)
2014

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesContribution to conference

Co-Organizer of the Cell Reprogramming Australia Annual Conference (Brisbane 2013, Melbourne 2014, Brisbane 2015)

Jose Polo (Organiser)
20132015

Activity: Participating in or organising an event typesContribution to conference

Nature (Journal)

Jose Polo (Editor in chief)
20112018

Activity: Publication peer-review and editorial work typesPeer review responsibility

Press / Media

Stem cell reprogramming mystery clarified by new findings

Jose Maria Polo

11/12/17

1 media contribution

Press/Media: Public Engagement Activities

Stem cell reprogramming mystery clarified by new findings

Jose Maria Polo

8/12/17

1 media contribution

Press/Media: Public Engagement Activities

Suite of Monash papers shed light on decade-long stem cell mystery

Jose Maria Polo

8/12/17

1 media contribution

Press/Media: Public Engagement Activities

Research papers shed light on decade-long stem cell mystery

Jose Maria Polo

7/12/17

1 media contribution

Press/Media: Public Engagement Activities

Monash biomed institute clocks swift result with “Mogrify” – The Australian

Jose Maria Polo

16/11/16

1 media contribution

Press/Media: Public Engagement Activities