While most of the work in the laboratory is focusing on improving transplantation and modulating the immune system in medical settings, due to the unique tools developed in the lab, Benyamin Rosental and his team translate their research to ecological questions. The most unique project we perform in the laboratory is to characterize, isolate and transplant coral stem cells.
The idea is to be able to isolate stem cells from heat resilient individuals and transplant them to sensitive corals, to enable resilience in the sensitive individuals in heat stress. Reef corals are the foundation of ecosystems that host much of the ocean’s biodiversity. They are under severe threat from anthropogenic stressors, particularly global warming. Efforts to mitigate the damage are informed by research on understanding and transferring naturally-occurring resilient genotypes. This has a direct parallel in medicine; cell- or gene-therapy, which is founded on an ability to isolate and then transplant stem cells. This technology does not exist for any coral species. In this research, the team develop robust tools for the isolation, characterization, and transplantation of coral progenitor cells. This technology will have an impact on basic and applied research. Being able to transfer progenitor cells from a stress-resilient coral to a sensitive one will assist in understanding the mechanisms governing stress tolerance. With this research, and using the tools developed here, it may become possible to confer resilience in the wild.