New Group Leaders for 2016

The Stem Cell Institute is proud to welcome two new Principal Investigators, Maria Alcolea and Joo-Hyeon Lee, both of whom have taken up their first independent group leader positions here at SCI. 

Dr Maria Alcolea


Dr Joo-Hyeon Lee

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Dr. Alcolea is a cell biologist who has focused on understanding the behaviour of stem and progenitor cells using the mouse oesophagus as a model to unveil the basic rules underlying epithelial stem cell fate. Maria’s work in the field has revealed how normal cell behaviour is redefined in response to injury and preneoplastic mutations, reflecting the remarkable plasticity of epithelial cells. “The ability of epithelial cells to rapidly adapt in response to injury represents a mechanisms of protection to restore tissue integrity and to ensure survival. However, when inadequately activated, it can lead to epithelial disease and cancer” she says. “My main interests are in investigating the poorly understood cellular and molecular mechanisms regulating this cellular plasticity, and the potential implications for early cancer development.” She believes that her work will constitute a major step forwards in the adult stem cell field, by identifying the master regulators of stem cell fate reacquisition, providing potential targets for cancer therapies.

Dr Lee’s research has focused on understanding stem and niche cell interactions and identifying regulatory signalling pathways during homeostasis and regeneration using the mouse and human lungs and newly developed organoid co-culture system. Joo-Hyeon aims to use her new group leader position to advance the field of lung stem cell biology and related respiratory disease. “I will be focusing on understanding the functional roles of stromal cells in stem cell lineage specific differentiation, a novel and unexplored field of research, which promises interesting and important findings of how multiple epithelial stem cells are differently regulated in response to region-specific injury,” says Joo-Hyeon.  “I expect that this work will provide a valuable resource for understanding environmental regulation of stem cells in many regenerative organs and for developing novel therapeutic targets for many diseases.”

Both Maria and Joo-Hyeon will be recruiting lab members in the near future.

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