Sara A. Wickström

Sara A. WickströmMax Planck Research Group Leader

Max Planck Institute for Biology of Ageing


Sara Wickström studied medicine at the University of Helsinki, Finland and absolved a M.D/PhD. program receiving her MD in 2001 and PhD in 2004. In 2010 she was appointed as a Max Planck Research Group Leader at the Max Planck Institute for the Biology of Ageing in Cologne, Germany. Her research addresses a set of fundamental questions in the fields of regenerative medicine and cancer biology: What are the mechanisms that control the stem cell state? How can this phenotype be dynamically adapted to the changing need of an organ/organism?How are the unique properties of stem cells harnessed during malignant transformation and compromised during aging?Her group uses mammalian skin epidermis as a model to study how stem cell behaviour, tissue morphogenesis, and homeostasis iscontrolled by cell and tissue-level mechanics as well as by chemical and physical interactions between different cell types and the extracellular matrix. In addition, she investigates how these processes are perturbed during ageing and age-related disease such as cancer.


The Wickström lab combines mouse genetics and human patient material with state-of-the-art scale-bridging technologies from nanoscale atomic force microscopy and next generation sequencing to novel ex vivo culture methods and whole organism live imaging and in silico modeling. Her research is highlyinterdisciplinary and involves collaborations with mathematicians, physicists and clinical oncologists. Recent work from the Wickström group has uncovered how generation of cellular forces is important for the remodelling of the extracellular matrix and how the precise composition of this extracellular matrix niche in turn controls stem cell fate. Furthermore her laboratory has discovered how extrinsic forces generated by the tissue impact chromatin structure and epigenetic gene silencing, thereby controlling the transcriptional state and lineage commitment of stem cells.





Most important publications

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.Dec 9. pii: e201694902. [Epub ahead of print]

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.Highlighted by Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology, Faculty of 1000

Morgner J, Ghatak S, Jakobi T. Dieterich C, Aumailley M, Wickström SA. (2015). Integrin-linked kinase regulates the niche of quiescent epidermal stem cells. Nat Commun. 6:8198.

Radovanac K, Morgner J, Schultz JN, Blumbach K, Patterson C, Geiger T, Mann M, Krieg T, Eckes B, Fässler R, Wickström SA (2013). Stabilization of Integrin-linked kinase by the Hsp90-CHIP axis impacts cellular force generation, migration and the fibrotic response. EMBOJ. 32, 1409-1424.

Wickström SA, Lange A, Hess MJ, Polleux J, Spatz JP, Krüger M, Pfaller K, Lambacher A, Bloch W, Mann M, Huber LA, and Fässler R. (2010). Integrin-linked kinase controls microtubule dynamics required for plasma membrane targeting of caveolae. Dev Cell19, 574-588. Highlighted by Faculty of 1000 and Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology

Lange A, Wickström SA,Jakobson M, Zent R, Sainio K, and Fässler R. (2009). Integrin-linked kinase is an adaptor with essential functions during mouse development. Nature. 461, 1002-1006.

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