Understanding how cells acquire their identity (normal or abnormal) is key for developing safer and potent anti-cancer and regenerative medicine therapies. The main molecular factors that determine how a cell becomes any cell type of the body – or, in aberrant situations, a tumour cell – are called transcription factors. Having studied how these transcription factors work as master regulators of other genes, Dr Polo has been able to generate a specific inhibitor with anti-lymphoma activity that is about to enter into clinical trials.
His work has also contributed to the advancement of a new technology in regenerative medicine, called induce pluripotent cells, which promises to generate “spare parts” for individual patients, whenever and wherever they are needed. Dr Polo’s work has explained the underlying process that creates these remarkable cells with their potential of creating any cell type of the body. Furthermore, his research has demonstrated the importance of choosing the correct cell type to be used in this process. Dr Polo’s current studies address some remaining hurdles that are preventing the fast translation of this technology into clinical practice.
Dr Polo has been involved in Stem Cell Awareness Day since his arrival in Australia in 2011. This public education initiative is devoted to linking scientists, clinicians, patients and the general public. Jose is also part of the Monash Talented Student Program, where he serves as a mentor for two undergraduate students. This year he is hosting two year 10 students from the John Monash Science School for work experience placements. His work has also featured in ‘The Scientist’, ‘ResearchALS.org’ and ‘The Washington Times’.