Profile and Department: Assistant Professor, University of Toronto, Biochemistry
After an injury, cells integrate signals from the wound environment to migrate, proliferate, and remodel the extracellular space to restore tissue function. The sum total of these cellular “decisions” can have extreme differences. For mammals like us, the outcome is usually a fibrotic scar that fails to restore the original form or function. But in a few animals like the Mexican axolotl, Ambystoma mexicanum, injuries heal perfectly and amputations of the tail (including spinal cord) or limb result in a complete regeneration of the structure. Cells couple wound healing to morphogenesis – converging at the amputation site into a mass of progenitors called the blastema.
Our goal is to understand how molecules, cells, and tissues are coordinated in space and time to build the blastema, a structure that is able to rebuild the limb. We are interested not only in how this process works, but how it is incredibly robust, working regardless of an animal’s size or where an injury occurs. We using a combination of in vivo imaging, ex vivo assays, and molecular techniques to deconstruct this complex tissue-scale process. At the same time, our vision is to compare mechanisms of regeneration in the axolotl to the incomplete and fibrotic regeneration in mammals with the aim of identifying key differences that can targeted for therapeutic improvements to wound healing and regeneration.