Institute for Cell Biology
Cell identity and developmental potential are determined by genetic programs that integrate a myriad of external and internal signals. The focus of our research is on stem cells, since they exhibit an exceptionally high growth and developmental potential. Stem cells are functionally defined by two unique attributes: their high selfrenewal capacity and their multilineage differentiation potential. The presence of both characteristics in one cell is rare and sets these highly specialized cells aside from the majority of the somatic cell populations. Stem cells occur in almost all organs of our body and are required for organ development and maintenance of organ integrity.
Adult and Embryonic Stem Cells
The laboratory has a long-standing interest in adult hematopoietic and mesenchymal stem cells and in embryonic stem cells, referred to as ES cells, and in their differentiated progeny, such as antigen presenting dendritic cells. We use high-end genomic approaches, such as RNA-Seq, ChIP-Seq, ATAC-Seq and HiChIP-Seq, and a rich bioinformatics toolbox to decipher the regulatory gene networks that determine stem cell growth and differentiation. We study how epigenetic changes, such as DNA methylation and histone modifications, are acquired during stem cell differentiation and aging.
Hematopoietic stem cells and mesenchymal stem cells reside in bone marrow in a highly specialized area, referred to as stem cell niche. In this context we study cell/cell interactions in hematopoiesis and its pathology, including leukemia and bone marrow fibrosis, and in aging.
Induced Pluripotent Stem Cells
We also study engineered stem cells, such as induced pluripotent stem cells, also referred to as iPS cells, and use precision genome engineering with CRISPR/Cas to generate cells with desired properties. Patient and disease specific iPS cells are employed for disease modelling, such as leukemia, bone marrow fibrosis and pain, and for compound screening.
Biohybrid Systems and Automatic Stem Cell Production
Biomedical engineering entails the development of biohybrid systems, comprising of engineered materials and cells, including iPS cell derived cells tailored for personalized therapy. Therefore, the laboratory investigates the impact of natural and synthetic biomaterials on cell growth, differentiation and function. We also develop systems, such as the StemCellFactory, based on robotics and machine learning for automatic stem cell production.