I started my scientific career by studying biochemistry at the University of Frankfurt in Germany and also studied two years of chemistry. I gained my first research experience during a number of internships including a longer one at the University of Oxford. Back then I became excited about how cells receive, process and transmit signals and decided to join the team of Axel Ullrich at the Max-Planck-Institute of Biochemistry in Munich for my PhD thesis. While I always knew that I would like to stay in science, it took me most of my last year as a PhD student to decide what topic I would like to approach next as a postdoc.
The early 2000 years were the time when we started to realize that chromatin modifications provide the molecular basis for epigenetic regulation. I found this fascinating and decided to join the junior group of Luciano Di Croce at the then newly founded Centre for Genomic Regulation in Barcelona. I have been working on the topic since. In 2009 I started to do so as a group leader and in 2015 I joined the Josep Carreras Leukaemia Research Institute where I still am today.
As group we are fascinated about how a single genome can give rise to hundreds of cell types. We want to know how the regulation of chromatin including its packaging into the three dimensional space of the nucleus determines how the genetic information is used and interpreted. In other words we want to understand how epigenetics works.
Frequently, we focus on one aspect of chromatin regulation, histone variants, and also want to know how chromatin interfaces with signals and metabolism. This is particularly important in cancer where cells stop doing their assigned job and expand at the expense of normal cells. We study what goes wrong in cancer cells on the level of chromatin regulation but also how this affects the other cell types in their environment and vice versa. Along these lines, we like to consider blood cancers as a disease of the bone marrow that is composed of different cell types. We believe that a better understanding of what happens in disease will allow us to find interventions and improve current therapies.
If you want to get a better idea of what we are currently doing in the lab beyond this simplified summary, please watch my talk here on Youtube in which I give a more detailed overview.
Wenk C et al. Direct modulation of the bone marrow mesenchymal stromal cell compartment by azacitidine enhances healthy hematopoiesis. Blood Advances. 2018
Buschbeck M and Hake SB. Variants of core histones and their effect on development, stem cells and cancer. Invited review Nature Reviews Molecular Cell Biology. 2017
Posavec Marjanović M et al. MacroH2A1.1 regulates mitochondrial activity by limiting nuclear NAD+ consumption. Nature Structural Molecular Biology. 2017