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Stem Cell Biology

stem cell

Image: Tracking of human epidermal stem cells (orange) in regenerated human epidermal tissue grafted on immune compromised mice. Courtesy George Sen.


Stem cells are the building blocks of multicellular life, and the intricate balance between proliferation and differentiation of a stem cell is essential during development and adulthood. CMM faculty members study a variety of stem cells including adult (neural, epidermal, hematopoietic), embryonic, and induced pluripotent stem cells using functional genetics, genomics, and biochemistry approaches to understand the molecular mechanisms by which these cells make cell fate decisions. Manipulation of stem cell fate holds great therapeutic promise in tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.

The CMM Department is a founding partner of the Sanford Consortium for Regenerative Medicine, a "collaboratory" that comprises a core of stem cell research in San Diego. There, Drs. Goldstein, La Spada, Sander, Willert, Muotri and Yeo are using stem cells to investigate the foundations of development and disease. Lawrence Goldstein, the Scientific Director of the Sanford Consortium, utilizes induced pluripotent stem cells to study axonal transport in both normal and diseased neurons. Karl Willert's research is focused on extracellular signals, in particular the Wnt family of growth factors, that instruct stem cells to either self renew or differentiate. Willert is also Director of the UCSD Human Embryonic Stem Cell Core Facility, which provides many essential resources for stem cell researchers.. Albert La Spada is using molecular genetics and functional genomics to decipher the mechanisms of neurodegenerative diseases. Alysson Muotri's lab is using patient derived stem cells to generate neuronal cultures in vitro, to explore the molecular and genetic basis for neurodevelopmental diseases, such as autism. Maike Sander explores the pathways that underlie development and disease of endocrine cells in the pancreas, using functional genomic and gene editing approaches in stem cells. Our newest hire, George Sen, explores skin development using epidermal stem cell cultures that can recapitulate skin development entirely in vitro.