Research Summary

Regulation of epithelial stem cell homing in cutaneous wound healing

My research interest is to study how cells are mobilized from their normal place of residence in order to home into a target tissue, a process that occurs not only during animal development but also during wound healing. Impaired and mis-regulated wound healing is associated with several human ailments such as diabetic foot ulcers, or over-scarring of tissues, which if unmanaged, can lead to death. For expediting tissue repair, activation and recruitment of adult stem cells, residing in the injured tissues is critical. A promising therapeutic strategy is to manipulate the mobilization of these resident stem cells in order to stimulate the rapid repair of adult tissues.

I am using wound healing in the skin to probe the mechanism of stem cell mobilization. The skin being the physical barrier between the body and the external environment has evolved the remarkable ability to rapidly repair itself following damage. This capacity is endowed by stem cells housed in multiple portions of the skin, such as the epidermis, hair shafts and sweat glands. Upon wounding, these stem cells are locally activated to home into the wound region, switching to an epidermal fate forming keratinocytes. What migratory cue drives this homing behaviour and what molecular mechanisms underlie the cellular responses are unknown, thus forming the main focus of my research. I expect to uncover the specific mechanism of stem cell mobilization in a rapidly regenerating tissue such as the skin and at the same time gain insights towards stimulating this process in tissues that do not have this capability.

Figure Legend: Wound induced stem cell mobilization in the skin (*indicates stem cells)