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The epithelial stem cell niche

nicheAdult stem cells reside in distinct microenvironments, or niches, that promote self-renewal and regulate stem cell behavior.  Niches have been hard to study in vivo because it is often difficult to precisely identify and genetically manipulate the stem cells and niche cells.  To understand the follicle stem cell niche, we first developed new genetic tools [1] and identified the source of key niche signals [2].  

Surprisingly, we have found that the follicle stem cell niche does not have a fixed position within the tissue and at least some cellular components of the niche turn over regularly during adult life. In addition, we found that Wnt signaling, which is essential for follicle stem cell self-renewal, is active only intermittently, suggesting that niche signaling is not static. We are using live imaging, new signaling pathway reporters, and quantitative 3D fluorescence microscopy to understand how this niche is able to function with precision amid a dynamic tissue environment.