The Ihrie lab uses single-cell cytometric approaches to identify populations of tumor-propagating and stem-like cells in normal brain and all grades of brain tumors. We work with neurosurgeons, pathologists, and computational biologists to study mechanisms driving tumor growth and therapeutic response in human gliomas and mouse brain tumor models.
We work in human tissue and animal models to identify and target subpopulations of cells that are responsible for the generation of specific neuronal subtypes (in the normal brain) and for tumor growth and progression (in gliomas and other tumor types). Unlike many other organs, the brain has very few dividing cells, and when neurons are lost because of disease or injury they generally are not replaced, causing devastating consequences for patients with neurodegenerative disorders, traumatic brain injuries, or other diseases. Understanding how stem cells are normally directed to make particular neurons (or other cells) will be essential to reprogramming these cells for therapeutic purposes. In addition, because stem and progenitor cells are some of the only proliferating cells in the brain, they are a likely cell of origin for brain tumors in both children and adults. We use single-cell-level assays to measure the effects of specific molecular signals on proliferation, differentiation, and invasion, with the goal of identifying pathways that can be targeted for therapeutic purposes.