Stem Cells in Organ Regeneration

Every day our body makes and loses billions of cells. This continuous regeneration is sustained by the presence of stem cells, which act as a lifelong reservoir by their ability to self-renew and differentiate into all the different lineages of a tissue.  In the Greco lab our goal is to define how tissues maintain themselves throughout the course of our lives in the face of continuous cellular turnover, frequent injuries and spontaneous mutations.

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Despite the highly dynamic nature of this process, the field has been limited by the inability to track the same cells over time and interrogate their behaviors in a live mammal. To overcome this challenge, we have developed novel tools that integrate imaging of stem cells in their niche in live mice with genetics and cell biological approaches, allowing us to understand the complex orchestration of tissue regeneration using the skin as model system.

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Utilizing our novel live imaging approach (Rompolas, 2012) we have made a significant number of breakthroughs that neither we, nor the field, could have anticipated, including that 1) stem cells have incredible plasticity during tissue regeneration in response to injury (Rompolas, 2013; Park, 2017), and even during homeostasis (Xin, 2018), 2) position dictates stem cell fate (Rompolas*, Mesa*, 2016) and direct neighbors coordinate their fate decisions (Mesa*, Kawaguchi*, Cockburn*, 2018) and 3) structural tissue aberrencies driven by β-catenin -mutant stem cells are composed of wild-type and mutant cells (Deschene*, Myung*, 2014) and these mutant growths regress over time by elimination by wild-type cells (Brown*, Pineda*, 2017).