Wenjun Guo, Ph.D -- Research Interest
Department of Cell Biology
Price Bldg., Room 122
Stem Cell Institute
|My lab is interested in two interlocking areas of stem cell biology: the molecular pathways that regulate the normal stem-cell state in the mammary gland, and the role of these pathways in the regulation of breast cancer stem cells.
Regulators of mammary stem cells
We have developed sensitive and specific mammary stem cell assays. Using these assays, we aim to identify novel markers and regulators of mammary stem cells.
In this effort, we identified two key transcription factors of mammary stem cells, Slug and Sox9. Both factors are necessary for maintaining endogenous mammary stem cells. Furthermore, ectopic expression of these factors efficiently converts differentiated mammary epithelial cells into long-term gland-regenerating stem cells. We are now investigating the mechanism of action by which these factors induce stem cells and regulate the epithelial cell hierarchy in the mammary gland.
Function of stem-cell pathways in breast cancer
Emerging evidence suggests that normal stem-cell pathways often get activated aberrantly in cancers and contribute to aggressive cancer behaviors. Identification of key normal stem cell regulators provides us a framework to understand how breast cancer stem cells are regulated. We are particularly interested in understanding the role of stem-cell factors in regulating metastatic colonization, a rate-limiting step of the metastatic cascade that involves cancer stem cells. In addition, we are interested in how cancer stem cells are regulated by the tumor microenvironment.