Jensen Group – University of Copenhagen

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Jensen Group

Our aim is to understand the physiological role of somatic stem cells in tissue homeostasis and characterise molecular mechanisms that control normal and cancer stem cell behaviour and properties. This will provide additional treatment strategies for diseases such as cancer.

Adult tissues such as the epidermis and the gut are subject to continuous renewal, as cells are lost whilst they carry out routine functions. Stem cells residing in specific locations are responsible for the constant replenishment of these tissues as well as tissue repair following injury. The degree of stem cell contribution to tissue replenishment depends on the specific tissue requirements and is regulated by intrinsic and extrinsic factors including the immediate microenvironment (the stem cell niche). An overall balance in the daily loss of cells by programmed cell death and gain of cells via proliferation ensures tissue homeostasis. The contribution from stem cells to tissue maintenance is therefore tightly regulated, and any imbalance however small will have devastating consequences on long-term homeostasis. 

Figure 1: Adult stem cell behaviour is regulated by the immediate microenvironment, the stem cell niche. Homeostasis is governed by a carefully balanced contribution from the stem cell compartment.




Stem cells are found in discrete stem cell niches, which impact on stem cell behaviour. The common expression of certain stem cells markers such as Lrig1 between different tissues strongly suggests that components of the stem cell niche are shared between different organs. Moreover, stem cell markers such as Lrig1 are also expressed in cancers indicating that the specific microenvironments that allow stem cell maintenance is recreated in disease.

Figure 2: Stem cells in the skin are found in specialised microenvironments where they are surrounded by other types of cell. This constitutes the stem cell niche.



We are investigating the process of homeostasis and the regulation of adult stem cells with the aim to identify regulatory factors that control stem cell behaviour and are involved in the development of diseases such as cancer. Specifically we are studying:

1. Role of stem cells in development, homeostasis and regeneration

2. The relationship between adult stem cells and cancer

3. Mechanisms that control stem cell behaviour

Figure 3: Lrig1 constitutes a master regulator of stem cell proliferation and controls homeostasis within multiple epithelial stem cell compartments.







Selected recent publications

Moestrup, K.S., Andersen, M.S. and Jensen, K.B. (2017) Isolation and in vitro characterization of epidermal stem cells. Methods Mol Biol 1553, 67-83

Schweiger, P.J. and Jensen, K.B. (2016) Modeling human disease using organotypic cultures. Current Opinion in Cell Biology 43, 22-29

Guiu, J. and Jensen, K.B. (2015) From Definitive Endoderm to gut—a Process of Growth and Maturation. Stem Cells and Development 24, 1972-1983

Schepeler, T., Page, M.E. and Jensen, K.B. (2014) Heterogeneity and plasticity of epidermal stem cells. Development 141, 2559-2567

Fordham, R.P., Yui, S., Hannan, N.R.F., Soendergaard, C., Madgwick, A., Schweiger, P.J., Nielsen, O.H., Vallier, L., Pedersen, R.A., Nakamura, T. Watanabe, M. and Jensen, K.B. (2013) Transplantation of expanded fetal intestinal progenitors contributes to colon regeneration after injury. Cell Stem Cell 13, 734-744

Hannan, N.R.F., Fordham, R.P., Syed, Y.A., Moignard, V., Berry, A., Bautista, R., Hanley, N.A, Jensen, K.B. and Vallier, L. (2013) Generation of Multipotent Foregut Stem Cells from Human Pluripotent Stem Cells. Stem Cell Reports 1, 293-306

Page, M.E., Lombard, P., Ng, F., Göttgens, B. and Jensen, K.B. (2013) The epidermis is comprised of autonomous compartments maintained by distinct stem cell populations. Cell Stem Cell 13, 471-82

Wong, V.W.Y, Stange, D.E., Page, M.E., Buczacki, S., Wabik, A., Itami, S., van de Wetering, M., Poulsom, R., Wright, N.A., Trotter, M.W.T., Watt, F.M., Winton, D.J., Clevers, H. and Jensen, K.B. (2012) Lrig1 controls intestinal stem cell homeostasis by negative regulation of ErbB signalling. Nature Cell Biology 14, 401-40