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Fellow to Faculty Awardee Identifies New Molecule in Self-renewal and Regeneration

Ting Chen, PhD, an Empire State Fellow-to-Faculty Award recipient working in the laboratory of Elaine Fuchs at The Rockefeller University, published work in the May 3 edition of Nature.  Dr. Chen’s work provides new insights into the mechanisms that control the balance between stem cell self-renewal and tissue regeneration. Disruptions of this balance may lead to stem cell depletion or conversely to overproliferation and cancer. Understanding the mechanisms that govern stem cell self-renewal is one of the keys to unlocking their potential for regenerative medicine.

Dr. Chen and her colleagues identified a transcription factor—TBX1—that plays an important role in regulating tissue regeneration by using RNA screening techniques on stem cells derived from human hair follicles. Selectively inactivating TBX1 function in vivo resulted in a progressive loss of stem cells over the course of repeated regenerative challenges. Additional studies showed that TBX1 acts as a gatekeeper, governing the transition between stem cell quiescence and proliferation. By identifying and observing the behavior of transcription factors like TBX1, scientists gain valuable insight into cell regeneration in the hopes of developing ways to control cell behavior to treat diseases such as skin cancer.

The Fellow-to-Faculty Awards were developed to enable New York State to attract and retain the most promising and exceptionally talented postdoctoral fellows and transition them to independent tenure track positions at institutions within New York State in the early stages of their careers.

Ting Chen, Evan Heller, Slobodan Beronja, Naoki Oshimori, Nicole Stokes & Elaine Fuchs. An RNA interference screen uncovers a new molecule in stem cell self-renewal and long-term regeneration. Nature 485, 104–108 (03 May 2012)