Department of Cell Biology

The Department of Cell Biology is home to an exciting group of faculty, post-doctoral scientists and students addressing fascinating questions about the nature of biological complexity – how molecular, subcellular, cellular and multicellular events are integrated and ordered over time to assemble and maintain specialized tissues, organs and whole organisms.  We work to promote multidisciplinary collaborative research and fundamental discovery in all areas of cell and developmental biology, and to inspire the translation of these new advances toward improving human health.

Doug DeSimone, PhD

A word from the Chair, Douglas DeSimone, Ph.D.

This is an exciting time to be a cell biologist. Remarkable advances in optical microscopy and live cell and embryo imaging now make it possible to probe complex processes occurring over time and along multiple length-scales, from the molecular to subcellular and single cells to tissues. Combined with traditional genetics, powerful gene-editing technologies and genome-level analyses, the cell biologist now has an unprecedented set of tools available to probe mechanistic underpinnings of biological processes as diverse as embryonic development, aging and disease, and tissue regeneration.
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Research Students in the UVA Department of Cell Biology

Karen Hirschi lab getting media attention for recent publications on the production of blood stem cells from endothelium

Dr. Karen Hirschi’s laboratory in Cell Biology (along with collaborators from Yale University and Stanford University) are attracting considerable attention for two papers published in December, 2020 (Inside UVa and CBS channel 19 news). Dr. Hirschi’s laboratory is already one of the leading laboratories in the world studying the production of blood cells from a subset of vascular endothelial cells (referred to as the endothelial-to-hematopoietic transition or EHT). This is a normal developmental process but a careful understanding of its mechanism could provide clinical tools for producing blood stem cells outside the human body for patients with a variety of conditions. In a paper published in December in Science, Hirschi and her colleagues showed that the pattern of N-glycosylation of various proteins, such as Adam-10, in endothelial cells regulates EHT. The regulation of N-glycosylation of endothelial glycoproteins is itself regulated by a microRNA, miR-223. In a paper published in December in Cell Reports, Hirschi and colleagues showed that retinoic acid signaling is required for the specification of human blood-forming, or hemogenic, endothelial cells. They developed a protocol for deriving endothelial cells from human stem cells and for specifying them as hemogenic endothelial cells. This work has enormous implications for regenerative medicine.
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Resident Faith in UVA Lab

Graduate Training in Cell and Developmental Biology

Understanding how cells and tissues function is central to all areas of biomedical research. The graduate program in Cell and Developmental Biology provides intensive training at the cutting edge of this dynamic field. Our internationally-recognized faculty investigate diverse and fundamental questions related to how cells and tissues function at the molecular level, including membrane and cytoskeletal dynamics, signal transduction, mitosis, cell adhesion and motility, mechanotransduction, embryonic patterning, tissue morphogenesis, morphogenetic movements, tissue repair and regeneration.
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