Research Faculty

1150 St. Nicholas Avenue
RB Room 312A
New York, NY 10032

Phone: 212-851-4544
Fax: 212-851-4810
Education and Training
1996 Ph.D., North Carolina State University
1997-2003 Postdoctoral Fellowship, Cancer Research-UK
David M. Owens, Ph.D.
J. Lowry Miller Associate Professor of Dermatology and Pathology and Cell Biology
Research Summary

The overall aim of the research in the Owens laboratory is to define the contributions of epithelial stem cells to normal skin function and neoplastic growth. The Owens laboratory is focused on three programmatic areas of skin biology: i) touch, ii) stem cells, and iii) cancer. The epidermis of skin is a multilayered stratified epithelium comprised of a single basal layer of dividing cells that give rise to non-dividing progeny that traverse the upper epidermal layers and terminally differentiate. The epidermis is known to contain reservoirs of multipotent stem cells, which are likely candidates for cells of origin for skin tumors based on their highly proliferative nature and capacity for self-renewal. The accessibility of epithelial stem cell populations in the skin, coupled with a vast arsenal of well-characterized experimental skin cancer models, renders the skin as an ideal tissue to investigate the role of stem cells in epithelial cancer.

To maintain skin homeostasis, epidermal cells must establish extensive communication networks with each other as well as neighboring cell types including melanocytes, mesenchymal cells and various leukocyte lineages. This highly complex communication network, collectively termed the microenvironment, integrates both extracellular and intercellular signals, and regulates the balance between epithelial cell proliferation and differentiation. Our laboratory is also interested in understanding cell-cell communication between differentiated infiltrating cells in the dermis and dividing cells in the basal epidermal layer, and how perturbations in this communication can stimulate the development of skin diseases such as cancer.


Herbert Irving Comprehensive Center
Columbia Stem Cell Initiative
Integrated Program
MD-PhD Program
SURF Program
Selected Publications

1. Jensen, U.B., X. Yan, C. Triel, S.-H. Woo, R. Christensen and D.M. Owens. A distinct population of clonogenic and multipotent murine follicular keratinocytes residing in the upper isthmus. J. Cell Sci. 121: 609-617, 2008.

2. Yan, X. and D.M. Owens. The skin: a home to multiple classes of epithelial progenitor cells. Stem Cell Rev. 4: 113-118, 2008.

3. Stumpfova, M., D. Ratner, E.B. Desciak, Y.D. Eliezri, and D.M. Owens. The immunosuppressive surface ligand CD200 augments the metastatic capacity of squamous cell carcinoma. Cancer Res. 70: 2962-2972, 2010.

4. Woo, S.-H., M. Stumpfova, U.B. Jensen, E.A. Lumpkin and D.M. Owens. Identification of epidermal progenitors for the Merkel cell lineage. Development 137: 3965-3971, 2010.

5. Bachelor, M.A., Y. Lu and D.M. Owens. L-3-Phosphoserine Phosphatase (PSPH) regulates cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma proliferation independent of L-serine biosynthesis. J. Dermatol. Sci. 63: 164-172, 2011.

6. Woo, S.-H., Y. Baba, A.M. Franco, E.A. Lumpkin and D.M. Owens. Excitatory glutamate is essential for development and maintenance of the piloneural mechanoreceptor. Development 139: 740-748, 2012.

7. Maalouf, S.W., S. Theivakumar and D.M. Owens. Epidermal α6β4 integrin stimulates the influx of immunosuppressive cells during skin tumor promotion. J. Dermatol. Sci. 66: 108-118, 2012.

8. Thieu, K., M.E. Ruiz and D.M. Owens. Cells of origin and tumor-initiating cells for nonmelanoma skin cancers. Cancer Lett. 139: 740-748, 2012.

9. Doucet, Y.S., S.H. Woo, M.E. Ruiz and D.M. Owens. The touch dome defines an epidermal niche specialized for mechanosensory signaling. Cell Rep. 3: 1759-1765, 2013.

skin, epidermis, hair follicle, keratinocyte, merkel cell, nonmelanoma skin cancer, stem cell, differentiation

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