Understanding the balancing act of blood stem cells: from cell therapies to cancer development
Lead researcher: Dr David Kent, Department of Biology
At a population level, blood stem cells must replenish themselves while also being ultimately responsible for producing and destroying trillions of blood cells on a daily basis. The Kent lab focuses on how cellular decisions are made on a single cell level in an effort to understand how to expand blood stem cell populations outside the body (for cell replacement or as a cell source for gene therapy) and how subversion of blood stem cells leads to cancer.
Current research spans normal and malignant blood stem cell biology in both mouse models and human patient samples. Areas of interest include normal stem cell regulation, evolution of blood cancers, the physical and mechanical biology of stem cells, and novel interdisciplinary approaches for expanding blood stem cells outside the body.
Recently, the lab has pioneered new approaches in tracking blood stem cells (Lee-Six et al., Nature 2018) and linking molecular profiles with stem cell function (Shepherd et al., Blood 2018), both of which inform current projects focused on understanding the molecular regulators of blood stem cell expansion, clonal tracking in sickle cell disease, and stem cell competition in cancers. The lab has numerous international and York-based collaborations, including Katherine Bridge/Ian Hitchcock on the early stages of blood cancer development and Steve Johnson/Thomas Krauss on new biophysics and bioengineering approaches to understanding blood stem cell biology.
Blood stem cells have an incredible growth potential that can be harnessed to provide near limitless cells for cellular and gene therapy but can also be subverted to drive blood cancers.