Kewaunee Lecture: Skin Stem Cells: Coping With Stress

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

3:30 pm - 4:30 pm
Fitzpatrick Center Schiciano Auditorium

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Elaine Fuchs, Ph.D., Rebecca C. Lancefield Professor and Laboratory of Mammalian Cell Biology and Development, The Rockefeller University


Kewaunee Poster Session

12:00pm – Fitzpatrick Center Pre-Function Area

Kewaunee Lecture

3:30pm - Schiciano Auditorium

Achievement and Poster Awards

4:30pm - Schiciano Auditorium

Kewaunee Reception
5:00pm - Fitzpatrick Center Atrium


Adult tissue stem cells have the ability to self-renew long term and differentiate into one or more tissues. Many stem cells are used sparingly to replenish cells during normal homeostasis. However, even stem cells that are quiescent must be able to respond quickly to injury in order to fuel rapid tissue regeneration. How stem cells balance self-renewal and differentiation is of fundamental importance to our understanding of normal tissue maintenance and wound repair. The regulatory circuitry governing this normal balancing act is must be intricately regulated in normal homeostasis, and then transiently altered to cope with injury responses. Increasing evidence suggests that these mechanisms go awry in inflammation and become hijacked in cancers.

Skin epithelium is an excellent model system to understand how stem cells remain quiescent during times of minimal wear and tear and how these cells become mobilized during the cyclical bouts of natural tissue regeneration that occur during hair growth. We’ve identified and characterized at a molecular level the skin’s stem cells and shown that they reside in distinct niches that impart to the stem cells their behavior both in task and in the molecular properties they display. We use high throughput genetic and genomic approaches to dissect at a molecular level how stem cell interactions with their niches differ in homeostasis and natural tissue regeneration. This foundation has enabled us to now dissect how the normal process of stem cell activation goes awry in stresses from inflammation, wounding and mechanical trauma, and oncogenes. This knowledge has begun to reveal clinically important insights such as how heterogeneity in the tumor microenvironment can confer to stem cells resistance to chemotherapy