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Stem cell dynamics in skin - from homeostasis to cancer - Maria Kasper

Skin is an excellent tool to study the onset of cancer since the epidermis of the skin is one of the best-studied stem cell systems and cancer is believed to arise from deregulated stem cell populations.

Group photo
Kasper Group [Est. 2013] Unnikrishnan Sivan, Alexandra Are, Maria Kasper, Simon Joost, Tina Jacob, Xiaoyan Sun, Karl Annusver, Anja Füllgrabe

Epidermal stem cells are located in distinct niches of the hair follicle and the interfollicular epidermis and their respective progeny are restricted to defined areas. However, injuries like acute wounds disturb the balance of homeostasis and allow stem cell progeny to repopulate new areas. Cancer also disturbs - or needs a disturbed - homeostasis, thus it is not surprising that wound healing and cancer are closely related processes.

By using a wide range of techniques we are addressing three different, yet tightly linked key questions:

  1. What is the cellular diversity of stem cells in epidermal homeostasis?
  2. What roles do distinct stem cell niches and wound repair play in tumorigenesis?
  3. What is (are) the molecular fingerprint(s) of newly transformed cancer-initiating cells?In summary, our aim is to unravel stem cell diversity and plasticity in adult tissue, and to reveal how wound repair and stem cell reprogramming influence the development of non-melanoma skin cancer, the most common cancer worldwide. We hope to find very basic mechanisms governing cancer initiation with potential for generalization to many types of cancer.

Group members


Selected Publications

Quantitative single-cell RNA-seq with unique molecular identifiers.
Islam S, Zeisel A, Joost S, La Manno G, Zajac P, Kasper M, et al
Nat. Methods 2014 Feb;11(2):163-6

Basal cell carcinoma - molecular biology and potential new therapies.
Kasper M, Jaks V, Hohl D, Toftgård R
J. Clin. Invest. 2012 Feb;122(2):455-63

Wounding enhances epidermal tumorigenesis by recruiting hair follicle keratinocytes.
Kasper M, Jaks V, Are A, Bergström �, Schwäger A, Svärd J, et al
Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U.S.A. 2011 Mar;108(10):4099-104

Lgr6 marks stem cells in the hair follicle that generate all cell lineages of the skin.
Snippert H, Haegebarth A, Kasper M, Jaks V, van Es J, Barker N, et al
Science 2010 Mar;327(5971):1385-9

The hair follicle-a stem cell zoo.
Jaks V, Kasper M, Toftgård R
Exp. Cell Res. 2010 May;316(8):1422-8

Lgr5 marks cycling, yet long-lived, hair follicle stem cells.
Jaks V, Barker N, Kasper M, van Es J, Snippert H, Clevers H, et al
Nat. Genet. 2008 Nov;40(11):1291-9