|The Epithelial Stem Cell Biology Laboratory studies the role of skin stem cells and their microenvironment in tissue renewal and carcinogenesis. The benefits of this research to patients include a greater understanding of the mechanisms by which the mesenchymal microenvironment promotes normal tissue replacement which will be useful in designing tissue regenerative therapies; and how the microenvironment can be hijacked to achieve cancerous growth – knowledge gained in this aspect of our work is being used to develop better diagnostic tools for patients with aggressive epithelial cancers including ovarian and head and neck cancers. |
- Tissue reconstitution ability of epidermal stem cells and their cycling progeny.
- Role of pericytes in homeostasis, tissue repair and cancer.
- Molecular profiling of epidermal stem cells and their progeny.
- Molecular and cellular cross-talk between the epidermis and dermal microenvironment during homeostasis and cancer.
|The Epithelial Stem Cell Biology Laboratory aims to understand the role of epithelial stem cells of the skin in homeostatic tissue regeneration, wound healing and cancer. Given that epithelial cancers make up more than 80% of all cancers, an understanding of these processes is critical to our knowledge of carcinogenesis in many sites throughout the body.|
It has been thought for some decades that rapidly renewing epithelial tissues at various body sites achieve cell replacement through the combined activity of stem and committed progenitor cells. More recently studies from a number of laboratories have revealed that committed progenitors in many epithelial tissues have a longer lifespan than suspected and are capable of multilineage tissue reconstitution previously thought to be the exclusive domain of stem cells. Our own published studies in human skin confirm this latter view, while simultaneously demonstrating a potent role for the cellular and molecular microenvironment in promoting skin reconstitution ability derived from actively cycling committed progenitors (i.e. non-stem cells) of the epidermis. We continue to investigate the interactions between the mesenchymal environment in which epithelial stem cells reside with the aim of defining specific molecular regulators that are part of the intricate conversation between these two compartments of the skin. These findings have strong implications for the ex-vivo expansion of patient cells for autografting onto sites of severe skin loss — such as on burns — while simultaneously improving our knowledge of stem cell regulation. Recent research directions in our laboratory increasingly focus on the role of stem cells in epithelial cancer and defining the identity and molecular role of cancer-associated “fibroblasts” or stroma in tumour progression.