Dr. Akira Watanabe

Discovering stem cell and mRNA sequencing transcriptomes for regenerative medicine

The Shinya Yamanaka Lab at Kyoto University paved the way for stem cell research with the world’s first generation of mouse and human iPSCs. With this foundation, Dr. Akira Watanabe and his team at the Center for iPS Cell Research and Application (CiRA) are using single iPSCs to study epigenesis in more than 10 tissue types. They are building their model of epigenesis using the C1 Kit for mRNA Seq with the C1 system and the Illumina HiSeq 2000.

Watanabe's team uses the C1™ system for transcriptome analysis of reprogrammed iPS cells. Because cellular reprogramming can revert differentiated cells to induced pluripotent stem cells, the team is investigating the mechanisms implicated in altering cell fate. Watanabe is exploring the mechanisms responsible for differentiation in complex cell types such as pancreatic β cells, as well as the chemical and transcriptional factors that drive reprogramming.

“We have found that each iPSC is even different. If you study iPSCs from different tissues, they are different and differentiate differently as well. For instance, some iPSCs can differentiate into cardiomyocytes while others cannot.”
— Akira Watanabe, PhD, Center for iPS Cell Research, Kyoto University 

Through his work, Watanabe has found that iPSCs present heterogeneous profiles. For instance, Watanabe has found that iPSCs selected from different tissues may not be capable of differentiation into all somatic cell types but only a subset. Because observation of phenotypic results can take up to 30 days of cell maturation, Watanabe’s team is building a faster, predictive model using single-cell mRNA sequencing to expedite analysis. Through this methodology, Watanabe studies the transcriptional effects that chemical differentiation induction and reprogramming have in both normal and diseased cells. By understanding both differentiation and reprogramming in iPSCs, Watanabe aims to establish an iPSC standard for regenerative therapies and disease state modeling.