Adult stem cells play a central role in the regeneration and repair of our body systems. Using mammalian skin as a model system, we study the principles of cell-cell interactions among different cell types in development, regeneration and injury repair. Dr. Zhang’s academic achievements include:
1.Identified a mechanism by which the growth of an epithelial tissue (the hair follicle) and a mesenchymal tissue (dermal adipocytes) can be coupled (Zhang et al., Gene and Development 2016), established a novel paradigm for studying the coupling of lineage behaviors in regeneration and diseases.
2.Identified a mechanism by which acute stress leads to a rapid depletion of melanocyte stem cells and hair graying (Zhang et al., Nature 2020), illustrated how an organismal-level neuronal activity can directly influence a tissue-level somatic stem cell population.
3.Developed new approaches and tools to study diverse cell types in the skin.
Our current research focus is to study:
1. The mechanism and function of nerve–stem cell interaction;
2. How systemic factors of the body, such as stress and aging influence stem cell behaviors and tissue regeneration;
3. Mechanisms of mammalian skin and hair regeneration.