The same molecular mechanisms that normally guide the biological processes in the developing embryo, maintain tissue homeostasis in the adult. The latter requires the activity of dedicated stem cells, with the capacity to both self-renew and differentiate. Stem cell activity is tightly controlled by signals from the local microenvironment to ensure a proper balance between proliferation and differentiation. Disruption of this balance is the underlying cause of degenerative diseases, tumor formation and, ultimately, aging.
Our research focuses on the mammary gland, which is a tissue with dynamic developmental properties. We are specifically interested in understanding and manipulating the behaviour and control of Wnt-responsive stem cells in normal development and breast cancer. For this, we use a combination of in vitro and in vivo approaches, including lineage tracing analyses, primary three-dimensional organoid cultures and functional imaging of Wnt-signal transduction.