2023 IBB Distinguished Lecture

"Stem Cells: Coping with Stress"

Elaine Fuchs, Ph.D.
Investigator, Howard Hughes Medical Institute
Rebecca C. Lancefield Professor
Robin Chemers Neustein Laboratory of Mammalian Cell Biology and Development
The Rockefeller University

About the Speaker
Elaine Fuchs is the Rebecca C. Lancefield Professor of Mammalian Cell Biology and Development at The Rockefeller University and an Investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. Her lab studies the role of skin stem cells in homeostasis and wound repair and how these processes go awry in cancer and inflammatory diseases.  

Fuchs received her B.S. in chemistry from the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana and her Ph.D. in biochemistry from Princeton. She studied skin biology as a post-doctoral fellow with Howard Green at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Fuchs was a faculty member at the University of Chicago for twenty years before joining Rockefeller University in 2002.

Fuchs’ contributions to skin and stem cell biology have been recognized through honors including the National Medal of Science in 2008, the March of Dimes Prize in 2012, and the E.B. Wilson Prize from the American Society of Cell Biology in 2015. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Medicine.

The Fuchs lab employs high throughput genomics, single cell sequencing, live imaging, cell biology, and functional approaches to unravel the pathways that balance stem cell self-renewal with tissue regeneration. Her team investigates how stem cells establish unique chromatin landscapes and programs of gene expression, and how this shifts in response to changes in their local environment. They also study the signaling pathways that must be turned on and off at the right time and place for adult skin stem cells to become activated to regenerate tissue. They seek to discover the activating signals from the neighboring cells that instruct the stem cells to make hair or repair wounds, and the inhibitory signals that tell them to stop making tissue.

Overall, Fuchs studies tissue biology at multiple levels, from its stem cells and the signals that control them to the epigenetic, transcriptional, and translational programs that maintain an orchestrated balance of tissue growth. While the foundations of normal tissue homeostasis and injury repair are still unfolding, the fundamental discoveries that Fuchs’s lab has made already provide insights into how skin and its stem cells cope with different environmental stresses, including aging, inflammation, and cancer, offering new avenues for treating human skin disorders.