Research in the Jackson-Grusby Laboratory focuses on two aspects of epigenetic dysregulation that lead to pediatric disease. First, they have developed a stem cell model for pediatric imprinting syndromes, which cause metabolic disorders, cancer predisposition and mental retardation in children. They are using this system to parse out the epigenetic pathways that lead to these complex traits with the idea the same pathways may be involved in these common disorders in the general population. Dr. Jackson-Grusby and her colleagues have demonstrated that this model causes fetal overgrowth, cellular immortalization, and cancer predisposition. They are testing the idea that expansion of stem cell pools by deregulated epigenetic control of homeostasis may be the cause of elevated cancer risk in this model.

The second notion they are testing is whether the mechanisms of epigenetic control that govern developmental and cellular plasticity are key pathways in malignant cells that form pediatric brain tumors and many other types of cancer. Tumor-initiating cells or cancer stem cells are refractory to chemotherapy and radiation treatment and lead to recurrent tumors in patients. The Jackson-Grusby lab has identified a pathway that is essential in normal differentiated cell types, but is not required for renewal of embryonic stem cells. As cancer stem cells express gene signatures common to embryonic stem cells, they are asking if disruption of this pathway in human and mouse medulloblastomas blocks tumor formation or allows recurrence by selective expansion of cancer stem cells.


Laurie Jackson-Grusby received a PhD from Harvard Medical School and completed a postdoctoral fellowship at the Whitehead Institute. She received the Sontag Foundation's Distinguished Scientist Award (2005) and she was named an Elinor and Miles Shore Scholar at HMS (2006).

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  • Epigenetic Control Mechanisms
  • Cancer Stem Cells

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