Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Scott Gridley, Committee Member

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Tanja Dominko, Advisor

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

Joseph B. Duffy, Department Head

Faculty Advisor or Committee Member

David S. Adams, Committee Member




Current usage of human embryonic stem cells (hES) and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) in clinical therapies and personalized medicine are limited as a result of ethical, technical and medical problems that arise from isolation and generation of these cells. Isolation of hES cells faces ethical problems associated with their derivation from human pre-implantation embryos. The most controversial aspect of hES cell isolation targets the generation of autologous hES cell lines which requires the transfer of a somatic-cell nucleus from the patient to an enucleated oocyte. While already established embryonic stem cell lines from IVF embryos can be used in a similar manner, lack of genetic identity can cause therapy rejection from the host, and prevent their use in personalized medicine. Induced pluripotent stem cells on the other hand, are generated from somatic cells that have been reprogrammed in vitro to behave like stem cells. While these cells can potentially be used for personalized medicine without the risk of rejection by the host system, derivation methods prevent their therapeutic use. The most efficient method used to generate iPS cells involves usage of viral particles which can result in viral DNA being integrated in the host cell’s genome and render these cells non-compliant for clinical therapies. Other methods not involving viral particles exist as well, but the reprogramming efficiency is too low and technical problems with generating large enough numbers of cells prevent these methods from being feasible approaches for clinical therapies. Direct reprogramming of a differentiated cell into a developmentally more plastic cell would offer alternatives to applications in regenerative medicine that currently depend on either embryonic stem cells (ES), adult stem cells or iPS cells. We hypothesize that Xenopus laevis egg cytoplasmic extract contains critical factors needed for reprogramming that may allow for non-viral, chemically defined derivation of human induced pluripotent/multipotent cells which can be maintained by addition of exogenous FGF2. In this thesis we investigated a new method for generation of multipotent cells through determining the ability of select fractions of Xenopus laevis egg extract to induce multipotency in already differentiated cells. We were able to identify select fractions from the extract that in combination with exogenously added FGF2 can reprogram and maintain the reprogrammed cells in an undifferentiated state. The findings of this work also determined that Xenopus laevis egg extract mRNA is required for achieving full reprogramming. The body of work presented in this thesis showed the ability of FGF2 isoforms to bind and activate select FGF receptor tyrosine kinases, act as extracellular mitogenic factors to support growth of hES cells in an undifferentiated state as well bind to nuclear DNA and affect expression of endogenous genes. Moreover, we showed that all FGF2 isoforms can induce expression of stem cell specific proteins in human dermal fibroblasts as well as extend lifespan of human dermal fibroblasts in vitro. In this work we identified HECW1, the gene coding for E3 ubiquitin ligase NEDL1, as a novel nuclear target for all FGF2 isoforms and showed that overexpression of recombinant FGF2 isoforms in human dermal fibroblasts can down regulate expression of HECW1 gene.


Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Degree Name



Biology & Biotechnology

Project Type


Date Accepted





Induced pluripotent stem cells, Pluripotency, FGF2, Cellular reprogramming, Stem cells, Xenopus laevis egg extract