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The University of Southampton
Interdisciplinary Research Excellence

Challenges for reproductive medicine: Pluripotent stem cells, somatic clones & transgenic animals Event

27 November 2014
IDS Lecture Theatre, Level A Southampton General Hospital

For more information regarding this event, please email Robert Murray at .

Event details

The past decade has seen marked progress in molecular genetics, genome-sequencing, epigenetic reprogramming and the establishment of pluripotent stem cells. Informative gene maps have become available for the domestic pig, cattle, horse, chicken, dog and the bee, allowing comparative analysis of genomes and targeted genetic modifications using new molecular tools.

Professor Heiner Niemann, Institute of Farm Animal Genetics, Mariensee, Germany

A free LUNCH is available from 12.30 in the seminar room opposite


Somatic cloning has emerged as the primary tool for producing transgenic animals. In somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT), the most critical factor is epigenetic reprogramming of the transferred somatic cell nucleus from its differentiated status into the totipotent state of the early embryo. This involves erasure of the gene expression program of the respective donor cell and the establishment of the well orchestrated sequence of expression of an estimated 10,000–12,000 genes regulating embryonic and fetal development.

Somatic cells can now precisely be genetically modified using novel molecular tools, including zinc-finger nucleases, TALEN, Crisp/Cas or transposons. While pluripotent embryonic stem cells with germ line contribution could not yet be derived from farm animals, significant progress has been made with regard to the production of pluripotent iPS cells (induced pluripotent stem cells) that share many important characteristics of pluripotent murine ES cells.

These cells provide important clues for studies into differentiation, disease modeling for improving transgenic animal production, and maintenance of genetic resources. A prominent example is the production of Oct4/GFP transgenic pigs in which the green fluorescence indicates the presence of pluripotent cells. Somatic cells from these pigs have been successfully employed to monitoring reprogramming into pluripotency and to localize the rare population of spermatogonial stem cells in testis of Oct4/GFP transgenic pigs. The successful application of these technologies requires in-depth knowledge in reproductive biology of farm animals specifically at the molecular and epigenetic level. Results are critical for gaining a better understanding of basic mechanisms in early development and for the development of novel biomedical animal models and therapies.


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