Infantile hemangioma is a vascular tumor that can grow rapidly, causing organ damage, disfigurement and morbidity. My lab has focused on the cellular mechanisms that drive this uncontrolled vascular growth.  We isolated increasingly less differentiated cells from hemangioma tissue (see figure), which led us to the identification of a multi-potent hemangioma stem cell that can form hemangioma-like blood vessels in immune-deficient mice.  The hemangioma stem cells (HemSCs) differentiate into endothelial cells, pericytes and adipocytes, thereby forming the major cell types in this common childhood tumor.

We have three goals in this project. The first is to understand the mechanisms that control the differentiation of the hemangioma stem cells into endothelial cells, pericytes and adipocytes.  The second is to determine if there are somatic mutations that cause or contribute to infantile hemangiom. The third is to more fully understand how drugs used to treat highly proliferative hemangiomas work at a cellular and molecular level.