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Research Projects | Overview

Blood Fish

Research summary

Research in the North lab is focused on the development and function of the hematopoietic stem cell (HSC) population, which serves as the foundation of the vertebrate blood system. HSCs are first formed during embryogenesis from a specialized population of hemogenic arterial endothelium, through a highly conserved molecular and physical transformation process termed Endothelial-to-Hematopoietic transition (EHT). Embryonic HSCs expand in number, while maintaining multipotency, to form the stem cell pool that supports life-long reconstitution of the blood supply and/or repopulation of the blood lineages after infection or injury. HSCs are therapeutically valuable for the treatment of blood disease, however there are currently no efficient methods to maintain or produce these cells de novo in culture. Ongoing research in the North lab is aimed at identifying key regulatory networks controlling blood cell specification and expansion during development, with a focus on the role of extrinsic or environmental signaling in the hematologic niche in maintaining the balance between HSC production and differentiation.

Primary areas of research interest include, but are not limited to the following topics:

  • Understanding the spatio-temporal timing and biological rationale for the shifting sites of hematopoiesis during vertebrate development
  • Uncovering the impact of extrinsic or environmental cues on intracellular transcriptional and/or epigenetic regulation of HSC specification and function
  • Utilizing unbiased screening approaches in the zebrafish model to identify and connect regulatory networks with potential to unlock self-renewal and multipotency in vitro

Research funding

National Institutes of Health (NIH)

  • U01HL134812: Stem cells for Therapeutics Discovery in Genetic Blood Disorders
  • R01HL152636: Biomechanical Activation of Yap Induces Hematopoietic Stem Cell Production
  • RC2DK120535: Molecular Circuits in the Hematopoietic Stem Cell Niche
  • R01HL154480: Developmental Activation of the Inflammasome Controls Hematopoietic Stem Cell Production

Leukemia and Lymphoma Society

  • LLS Scholar Award