Assistant Professor Woo Wei Meng
BSc, MSc, PhD
Principle Investigator, Cell Signalling and Tissue Regeneration Laboratory
Dr Woo Wei Meng is an Assistant Professor at the Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine, Nanyang Technological University. Prior to this appointment, Dr Woo spent her scientific career at the world renowned Stanford University, USA. Dr Woo received her BSc and MSc from Taiwan’s National Cheng-Kung University and National Yang-Ming University, respectively, while doing her Master’s thesis work at the Academia Sinica, Taiwan. She received her PhD in Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology from University of California, Santa Cruz in the US and did her postdoctoral training in the Program in Epithelial Biology at Stanford University.
Dr Woo is interested in understanding the mechanisms that regulate epithelial tissue development and regeneration. She studied epithelial - mesenchymal signalling interactions during hair follicle development, focusing on paracrine Hedgehog (Hh) pathway regulation on the hair follicle mesenchymal signalling centre, the dermal papilla. To facilitate cell type-specific dissection of gene functions during hair follicle formation, Dr Woo has established a rapid hair reconstitution genetic assay. Using this assay she demonstrated that epithelial Hh ligand maintains its own expression via a paracrine Hh response in the dermal mesenchyme, forming an epithelial – mesenchymal positive signalling regulatory loop to drive hair follicle formation. This study forms one of the foundations for potential novel cancer therapeutics in stromal Hh response-dependent tumours.
Dr Woo’s work in epithelial biology and Hh signalling resulted in a number of papers in top-ranking journals. She received both pre-doctoral and post-doctoral fellowships during her scientific training, and has presented her work at international conferences while winning several travel awards.
Investigating Hh signaling mechanism: studying new Hh pathway regulator
Hh pathway is critical for animal development and cancer formation, however, the molecular mechanism of Hh signal transduction is not fully understood. Given the contribution of studying new Hh pathway players to our understanding of the pathway, while identifying a number of new Hh downstream effectors from the dermal mesenchyme, Woo’s lab is interested in understanding the molecular regulation of Hh signal transduction. The lab will focus on dissecting the molecular mechanism of one of the GIPC proteins, which is a new putative Hh pathway regulator based on our preliminary data. We will also examine the role of GIPC during the formation of hair follicles and the Hh-dependent skin cancer, basal cell carcinoma.
Hh regulation of the hair follicle microenvironment
Hair follicle is an excellent model for understanding tissue regeneration, as this mini-organ regenerates itself throughout life, and that hairs are readily accessible for characterization. However, in contrast to the well characterized hair follicle stem cells, less is known about the hair follicle microenvironment. While we showed the importance of Hh signalling in the dermal papilla, we are interested in unravelling how the Hh downstream effectors regulate the formation and function of this specialized hair follicle dermal microenvironment. With this aim, the lab will focus on one of the Hh targets identified earlier, the transcription factor Sox18. To study the effect of microenvironment Hh response towards stem cells, we will examine dermal Hh response-dependent epithelial stem cell activities during postnatal hair follicle regeneration.
1. Investigate the molecular mechanisms of GIPC in Hh pathway regulation
2. Investigate the roles and mechanisms of GIPC in basal cell carcinoma formation
3. Investigate Sox18 molecular mechanism in mediating Hh-dependent dermal cell fate determination.
4. Characterize dermal Hh-response regulation on hair follicle stem cells during hair follicle regeneration
In long term we believe that by understanding the formation and regulation of the dermal papilla as well as other microenvironment components of the hair follicles, we will contribute new strategies for regenerative medicine, as well as develop therapeutic approaches for hair loss.
1. Xiao, Y., Woo, W-M., Nagao, K., Li, W., Terunuma, A., Mukouyama, Y-S., Oro, A.E., Vogel, J.C., Brownell, I. (2013). Perivascular hair follicle stem cells associate with a venule annulus. J. Invest. Dermatol. 133: 2324-2331
2. Woo, W-M.*, Atwood, S.X.*, Zhen, H.H., and Oro, A.E. (2013). Rapid genetic analysis of epithelial-mesenchymal signaling during hair regeneration. J. Vis. Exp. 28: e4344 http://www.jove.com/video/4344
3. Woo, W-M., Zhen, H.H., and Oro, A.E. (2012). Shh maintains dermal papilla identity and hair morphogenesis via a Noggin – Shh regulatory loop. Genes Dev. 26: 1235-1246. F1000 recommended article.
4. Woo, W-M. and Oro, A.E. (2011) SnapShot: hair follicle stem cells. Cell 146: 334-334.e2
5. Hillman, R.T., Feng, B.Y., Ni, J., Woo, W-M., Milenkovic, L., Hayden Gephart, M.G., Teruel, M.N., Oro, A.E., Chen, J.K., and Scott, M.P. (2011). Neuropilins are positive regulators of Hedgehog signal transduction. Genes Dev. 25: 2333-2346
6. Bershteyn, M., Atwood, S.X., Woo, W-M., Li, M., and Oro, A.E. (2010). MIM and Cortactin Antagonism Regulates Ciliogenesis and Hedgehog Signaling. Dev. Cell 19: 270-283
7. Woo, W-M.*, Berry, E.*, Hudson, M.L., Swale, R.E., Goncharov, A., and Chisholm, A.D. (2008). The C. elegans F-spondin family protein SPON-1 maintains cell adhesion in neural and non-neural tissues. Development 135: 2747-2756 *co-first author
8. Woo, W-M, Goncharov, A., Jin, Y., and Chisholm, A.D. (2004). Intermediate filaments are required for C. elegans epidermal elongation. Dev. Biol. 267: 216-229
9. Ding, M., Woo, W-M, and Chisholm, A.D. (2004). The cytoskeleton and epidermal morphogenesis in C. elegans. Exp. Cell. Res. 301:84-90. Invited minireview.