Jill de Jong, MD, PhD

Hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) are responsible for producing and maintaining all the blood cells of an organism over its lifetime. Through advances in medical science, this tremendous resource has been harnessed for the treatment, and sometimes cure of human diseases using bone marrow transplantation, also known as hematopoietic stem cell transplantation. Yet much remains elusive about the biology of this critical cell type in the normal adult bone marrow, and after bone marrow transplantation. In addition, it is clear that many genes already identified to play a role in the normal development and regulation of HSCs are also associated with hematopoietic malignancies such as leukemia and lymphoma when they become mutated or abnormally expressed.

My lab is interested in the genes that regulate normal HSC function in the bone marrow, and studying whether those genes may contribute to the development of leukemia when their expression is abnormal.We utilize the zebrafish animal model as a unique discovery mechanism to uncover new genetic regulators of HSCs, and thereby new genes important for causing leukemia and other hematopoietic malignancies. Identifying these genes will open the door to understanding normal HSC function in vivo and after transplantation, and more importantly, will provide new insights into the mechanisms leading to the development of leukemia and potentially new targets for the treatment of leukemia.