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Stem Cells, Development and Cancer

In the Spike Lab, we are interested in questions at the intersection of stem cells, development, and cancer:

  • What defines a stem cell molecularly and contextually?
  • How similar are tissue stem cells and the cells that propagate cancers?
  • Are there differences between normal stem cells and neoplastic cells that can be exploited for clinical decision making or therapeutic targeting?
  • How heterogeneous are stem cell pools?
  • What are the sources and consequences of this heterogeneity?
  • How can we identify cells with latent stem cell or tumorigenic capacity?
  • What cues and stresses awaken this potential or keep it dormant in normal development and in cancer?

We think answering these and related questions is likely to be of critical importance for the development of truly effective therapies in diverse malignancies, as well as for strategies in tissue engineering, tissue repair and aging.

Our Approach


We use an integrated approach including:

  • a wide variety of cell and molecular biological assays,
  • multi-dimensional and time lapse tissue culture systems,
  • fluorescent/luminescent cell function and lineage tracing,
  • molecular genetic engineering of cells and mice,
  • mouse models of development and cancer,
  • molecular profiling - including rare and single cells, and
  • bioinformatics and computational approaches.

We also adopt new technologies as they come online and develop technologies where necessary to address compelling questions.

Lab Philosophy

Our lab takes basic scientific discovery as its cornerstone, but we remain watchful for opportunities to translate our findings into clinical benefit and to work together with our clinical colleagues.

  • We integrate approaches vertically from the molecular through the organismal level because each experimental system has its artifacts as well as its advantages.
  • We seek to be meticulous in our observations and to design incisive experiments to address well-formulated hypotheses on important questions. However, we also seek to keep our minds open to better hypotheses, more important questions and discoveries that, more often than not, creep up from the oblique.
  • We communicate and share ideas in collaboration.
  • We believe in joyous scientific research, even to address the starkest realities.