One of the avenues in our lab focuses on understanding the molecular mechanisms behind rapid growth and size control of the postnatal liver. The vascular progenitors we have identified are the main source of liver vascularization after birth. These progenitors decline sharply well before adulthood, setting a limit on vascularization. This cellular mechanism pre-determines the final size of the organ. How are the vascular progenitors lost? We have performed single cell RNA-sequencing to dissect the key signals behind progenitor decline. We are now studying these signaling mechanisms.
We complement these studies with in vitro organoid work that focuses on generating true liver organoids. Our goal is to re-create a full lobule in vitro by seeding the vascular progenitors we have identified along with hepatocytes and other cell types.
These studies will improve our understanding of the principles that govern organ growth and size control. What we learn from here will serve two critical goals of translational research; generating vascularized organoids, and mimicking liver function for drug research.