Julie Saba

Senior Scientist
John and Edna Beck Chair in Pediatric Cancer Research
UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland Research Institute

Sphingolipids are endogenous lipids found in the circulation and in the membranes of all human cells. Sphingosine-1-phosphate (S1P), the final common metabolite of mammalian sphingolipids, serves as a signaling molecule which activates a family of G protein-coupled receptors involved in the migration, proliferation and differentiation of many cell types, including various types of stem cells. S1P is a growth factor for murine and human embryonic stem cells, and S1P promotes the activation of muscle stem cells called satellite cells that are critical for effective muscle regeneration. Our laboratory is focused on elucidating the specific role of S1P in the biology of pluripotent stem cells and satellite cells, as well as their function in the survival and chemotherapy-resistance of pathological cancer stem cells. By improving our understanding of how S1P influences stem cell functions, we hope to develop pharmacological strategies to expand endogenous tissue stem cell reserves, expand stem cells ex vivo for cell therapy purposes, and target and eradicate cancer stem cells in patients with malignancies.