Elizabeth and Michael Gallagher Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences
Office: 271 Galvin Life Science Center
Athanasia Panopoulos’ laboratory conducts research on induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells with a focus on how the process of reprogramming somatic cells– the adult cells in the body such as skin, hair, blood, and other tissues– could open new ways to treat cancer and blood diseases.
Panopoulos’ research combines her training in stem cell biology, blood cell development and cancer to utilize the process of reprogramming to address two main long-term goals: (1) To study the development of human blood stem cells in hopes of making blood stem cells in a dish that are capable of fully reconstituting the entire blood system. Although human pluripotent stem cells, such as iPSCs, have the potential to differentiate into any cell lineage in the human body, researchers have not yet been able to obtain fully functional cells for some cell types, including the hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) that make blood. Why blood? If scientists were able to successfully make blood stem cells, then it is the hope that patients in need of a bone marrow transplant would no longer have to wait to find a bone marrow matched donor, and numerous blood diseases could be treated in ways they were not able to before, and (2) To develop methods to strategically target cancer cells that behave as stem cells. It is thought that for some types of malignancies, cancer cells that acquire “stem cell” properties are contributing to relapse. Reprogramming allows the ability to study how cancer cells may be doing this, in hopes of being able to target these cells and prevent malignant relapse.
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