Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine

Center for Genetic Medicine

Robert M Lavker, PhD

Robert M Lavker, PhD

Jack W. Graffin, MD, Research Professor

Professor of Dermatology

Focus of Work

Bio

Dr. Lavker is the Jack W. Graffin, M.D. Professor of Dermatology and Director of Research in the department. H has spent the last 50 years studying various aspects of cutaneous biology and published over 150 original scientific papers. In addition to his research endeavors, he has considerable administrative abilities. Prior to joining Northwestern University, Dr. Lavker was a member of the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania for 26 years. He served as Principal Investigator on the Univers...[Read full text]Dr. Lavker is the Jack W. Graffin, M.D. Professor of Dermatology and Director of Research in the department. H has spent the last 50 years studying various aspects of cutaneous biology and published over 150 original scientific papers. In addition to his research endeavors, he has considerable administrative abilities. Prior to joining Northwestern University, Dr. Lavker was a member of the faculty of the University of Pennsylvania for 26 years. He served as Principal Investigator on the University of Pennsylvania’s Department of Dermatology Training Grant from 1987-2001. He has had continuous NIH funding since 1982 and is currently the Principal Investigator on 2 NIH R01 grants and a T-32 Training Grant in Cutaneous Biology. Dr. Lavker has played an important role in the research training of individuals within the departments of dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania and Northwestern University. In addition to his scientific and teaching responsibilities, he holds and has held numerous leadership positions. He served as Associate Chairman of the Department of Dermatology at the University of Pennsylvania and administered all aspects of research from 1993-1994. He also served on the Executive Committee, the Resident Selection Committee, and the Appointments and Promotions Committee of the Department of Dermatology at both Northwestern University and the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Lavker was Chair of the NU Medical School’s Committee on Appointments and Promotions (APT) from 2007-2009 and continue to Chair the department’s APT committee. He was a member of the Research Council at Northwestern University, which managed all research-related activities on campus and evaluated all of the medical school’s core facilities. Dr. Lavker served on the Board of Directors of the Society for Investigative Dermatology from 1997-2000, and was an Associate Editor of the Journal of Investigative Dermatology from 2002-2014.[Shorten text]

Academic Focus

My laboratory focuses on defining how self-renewing epithelia (e.g., epidermis, corneal and conjunctival epithelia, hair follicle) maintains homeostasis. Such steady-state systems are, by definition, governed by stem cells and we have pioneered investigations on the biological properties of epithelial stem cells. In collaboration with Tung-tien Sun (NYU) our lab was the first to propose the concept of epithelial basal cell heterogeneity and to demonstrate that a subpopulation of epidermal basal ...[Read full text]My laboratory focuses on defining how self-renewing epithelia (e.g., epidermis, corneal and conjunctival epithelia, hair follicle) maintains homeostasis. Such steady-state systems are, by definition, governed by stem cells and we have pioneered investigations on the biological properties of epithelial stem cells. In collaboration with Tung-tien Sun (NYU) our lab was the first to propose the concept of epithelial basal cell heterogeneity and to demonstrate that a subpopulation of epidermal basal cells were putative stem cells. In collaboration with George Cotsarelis (UPENN), we demonstrated that the stem cells of the corneal epithelium were preferentially localized as a subset of limbal epithelial basal cells. This observation has had vast translational impact on vision, as it altered the manner by which corneal epithelial transplant surgery was conducted and formed the foundation for ex vivo expansion of limbal stem cells for use in conditions of limbal stem cell deficiency. Our laboratory was also the first to localize the hair follicle epithelial stem cells to the bulge region of the outer root sheath. This observation helped explain, in part, the mechanisms underlying the hair growth cycle. We were also the first to formally demonstrate that the hair follicle stem cells were bi-potent, capable of giving rise to not only the cells that formed the hair shaft, but also to the epidermis. This finding was important for our understanding of how the hair follicle provided proliferative cells to the epidermis during times of tissue expansion and wound repair. With respect to how the stem cells are regulated, my laboratory was the first to evaluate the expression profile and localization of microRNAs, which are part of the RNA silencing machinery in corneal and lens epithelia and retinal tissues. We identified miR-184 as a corneal-preferred miRNA that is angiostatic and maintains corneal avascularity. We found that miR-31, another corneal-preferred miRNA, positively regulated Notch signaling via a novel hydroxylase to insure proper corneal epithelial and epidermal differentiation. Most recently, my laboratory has demonstrated that the miR-103/107 family is vital in maintaining limbal epithelial stem cell homeostasis as well as insuring proper end stage autophagy.[Shorten text]

Keywords

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Education and Certification

  • PhD: Clemson University, Nutrition (1968)
  • Postdoctoral Fellowship: Boston University (1969)

Contact

312/695-8106

Ward Building Room 9-124
303 E Chicago Avenue
Chicago IL 60611