Abstract: Characterization of Stem Cell Niche Morphogenesis in Drosophila melanogaster testis

My name is Anna Westerhaus, and I am a junior Biology major at the college. This summer, I will work in the Wawersik Lab to discover the fate and morphogenesis of stem cells during testis cell niche formation using the model organism, Drosophila melanogaster (the fruit fly). Specifically, I will be mapping how primordial germ cells (PGCs) and somatic gonadal precursor cells (SGPs) in the gonads interact during embryonic development to give rise to the germline stem cell niche. I will track individual cell movements in the developing gonad through live cell imaging using a laser-scanning confocal microscope and analyze these movements with the help of a tracking computer program.

Since stem cells are involved in development and organogenesis, they have been linked to many developmental disorders. It is my hope that this research on stem cell niche development will give the scientific community a better understanding of organogenesis in general and specifically have implications for discovering how certain disorders or cancers develop in reproductive tissues.