Tissue regeneration requires the activation and mobilization of specialized cells called stem cells. These cells are responsible for producing new cells to replace a tissue or organ during injury. In many tissues, these cells stay dormant until they are stimulated to grow. These stem cells are important not only for their role in tissue regeneration but in many diseases are the point of origin for cancer. Thus understanding what regulates the growth of stem cells is important for many areas of human health.
The signals that stimulate stem cell growth and maintain their identity are not well known. To answer these questions, my lab investigates how progenitors grow and how progenitors are maintained using two models of stem cells, the skin and embryonic stem cells. Funding from the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine has allowed my lab to develop new tools to study the properties of stem cell growth. Using these tools, we discovered that how signals outside of the stem cell compartment interfere with stem cell growth (Mukhopadhyay 2011) and downstream signals (Mukhopadhyay 2012). We also found new differences between stem cells of different genders including their response to pharmacologic treatments. Lastly, we are learning about how basic units of a stem cell are regulated during their growth. These units, called ribosomes and histones, regulate the synthesis of new proteins or control genes, respectively, and have unique characteristics in stem cells. By studying these areas, we hope to understand unique targets to regulate stem cell growth.