Welcome to the van Galen Lab
The van Galen laboratory investigates normal and malignant hematopoiesis, with a focus on acute myeloid leukemia (AML). We use innovative experimental and computational technologies to study human cells at the transcriptional, genetic and epigenetic levels. The ultimate goal is to design new therapies that can prevent the initiation or progression of leukemia.
Cancer is caused by the sequential acquisition of genetic mutations that confer a competitive advantage to cells. Initial mutations in hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) can lead to an expansion of pre-malignant stem cells, clonal hematopoiesis and a predisposition to hematological cancers. If clonal hematopoiesis progresses to AML, pre-malignant HSCs can persist throughout the disease and drive relapse. Our laboratory is interested in the processes that allow pre-malignant and malignant stem cells to expand and survive therapy. Understanding the differences between normal, pre-malignant and malignant stem cells is critical to design therapies that specifically target the cells that drive AML initiation and progression.
The hematopoietic system is a hierarchically organized tissue with stem cells at the apex. These hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) replenish as many as a trillion cells per day of the myeloid, lymphoid and erythrocyte/megakaryocyte lineages. This remarkable regenerative potential places specific constraints on HSCs, such as unique stress responses and epigenetic control mechanisms. Our laboratory studies how deregulation of these processes can lead to a cell state that is susceptible to transformation.