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Prof. Sara A. Wickström, MD, PhD

Member of the International Faculty

Professor of Cell and Developmental Biology

Faculty of Medicine and Helsinki Institute for Life Science (HiLIFE)
University of Helsinki, Finland

Sara Wickström studied medicine at the University of Helsinki, Finland, receiving her MD in 2001 and PhD in 2004. After postdoctoral training with Reinhard Fässler at the Max Planck Institute for Biochemistry in Munich, Germany, she joined the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing in Cologne, Germany as Group Leader in 2010. In 2018 her laboratory moved to the Helsinki Institute for Life Science at the University of Helsinki, Finland where she now holds a professorship for Cell and Developmental Biology. Her research aims to understand how mammalian epithelial tissues are generated and maintained, and in particular how mechanical forces and cellular interactions integrate single cell behaviors to pattern these structurally extremely robust yet dynamic tissues.

Specifically, the Wickström lab combines mouse genetics and human patient material with scale-bridging technologies from nanoscale atomic force microscopy and next generation sequencing to whole organism live imaging and in silico modeling. The research is highly interdisciplinary and involves collaborations with mathematicians, physicists and clinical oncologists. Recent work from the Wickström group has uncovered how tissue-scale forces allow coordination of proliferation and differentiation events to regulate tissue morphogenesis and size.  Furthermore, her laboratory has discovered how extrinsic forces generated by the tissue impact chromatin structure and epigenetic gene silencing, thereby controlling genome integrity, the transcriptional state and lineage commitment of stem cells.

 
Representative publications
  1. Nava MM, Miroshnikova YA, Biggs LC, Whitefield DB, Metge F, Boucas J, Vihinen H, Jokitalo E, Li X, García Arcos JM, Hoffmann B, Merkel R, Niessen CM, Dahl KN, Wickström SA. (2020) Heterochromatin-driven nuclear softening protects the genome against mechanical stress-induced damage Cell, 181, 800-817
  2. Kim CS, Ding X, Allmeroth K, Biggs, LC, Kolenc OI, L’Hoest N, Chacón-Martínez CA, Edlich-Muth C, Giavalisco P, Quinn KP, Denzel M, Eming SA, Wickström SA. (2020) Glutamine metabolism controls stem cell fate reversibility and long-term maintenance in the hair follicle. Cell Metabolism 32, 629-642.e8
  3. Miroshnikova YA, Le, HQ, Schneider D, Thalheim T, Rübsam M, Bremicker N, Polleux J, Höppner N, Tarantola M, Wang I, Balland M, Niessen CM, Galle J, Wickström SA (2018) Adhesion forces and cortical tension couple cell proliferation and differentiation to drive epidermal stratification. Nat Cell Biol 20:69-80. 
  4. Chacon-Martinez CA, Klose M, Niemann C, Glauche I, Wickström SA. (2016). Hair follicle stem cell cultures reveal self-organizing plasticity of stem cells and their progeny. EMBOJ. 36, 151-164. 
  5. Le HQ, Ghatak S, Yeung CY, Tellkamp F, Günschmann C, Dieterich C, Yeroslaviz A, Habermann B, Pombo A, Niessen CM, Wickström SA. (2016). Mechanical regulation of transcription controls Polycomb-mediated gene silencing during lineage commitment. Nat Cell Biol. 18, 864-875. 

Contribution to KPA I:

Sara Wickström's research brings a unique combination of stem cell biology, mechanobiology and epigenetics to the Cologne Aging Campus. She has been actively contributing to the Cologne research community as a Research Group Leader at the Max Planck Institute for Biology of Aging until she moved to the University of Helsinki in 2018.