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 are not well known. My lab studies how progenitors grow using the hair follicle and embryonic stem cells as models of tissue and organ development. With funding from the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine, our lab has developed new methods and discovered new properties for stem cell growth. First, we discovered that abnormalities outside of the stem cell compartment can interfere with stem cell growth (Mukhopadhyay 2011). Second, we discovered about different levels of the same signal can control an important growth factor called Sonic Hedgehog in hair follicle growth (Mukhopadhyay 2012). Third, 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.