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About Our Lab

The Habib Lab works at the intersection of stem cell biology, biophysics, and tissue engineering to investigate how tissues form. We use this knowledge to develop technologies for tissue repair. 

Wnt proteins, often secreted locally, are required for self-renewal in many types of stem cells. Shukry pioneered a technology to immobilise hydrophobic Wnts to synthetic surfaces (Science 2013, Nature Protocols 2017), thereby allowing Wnts to be spatially targeted to cells and tissues. Shukry demonstrated how localised and directional Wnts affect mammalian stem cells by inducing asymmetric stem cell division (Science 2013), an essential process for tissue formation.

His lab has shown that Wnt-platforms can select for and self-renew Wnt-responsive stem cells (Stem Cell Reports 2016). Using this, they engineered the Wnt-induced osteogenic tissue Model (WIOTM), which maintains human skeletal stem cells (hSSCs) and a cascade of osteogenic differentiating cells, a process driven by asymmetric cell division. This system is ideal for modelling human bone diseases and drug screening.

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Human mesenchymal stem cells in culture (left) and a schematic of the immobilised Wnt3a (blue/red) directing asymmetric cell division to form the WIOTM

Importantly, the lab has also engineered a novel Wnt-bandage and formed the WIOTM on it (WIOTM-bandage). Wnt-bandage treatment doubles bone repair in critical-sized bone defects that cannot heal by themselves; the WIOTM-bandage triples bone repair. Importantly, hSSCs are maintained in vivo and uniquely generate human mature bone cells (Nature Materials 2021). This work has resulted in a patent, interest from orthopaedic surgeons for clinical trials, and over 107 news articles, including televised coverage by CBS news. 

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Our pipeline for skeletal stem cell technology and bone repair.

The immobilised Wnt3a directs regeneration. 

The Habib lab studies mechanisms of stem cell self-organisation to generate 3D tissues. They identified specialized cytonemes that “seek” self-renewal-promoting Wnt-ligands and pair with niche Wnt-producing cells to initiate morphogenesis. They discovered a unique glutamate-Wnt receptor cross-talk during Wnt recruitment as a mechanism of cytoneme selectivity (PNAS 2020), which they further characterised using statistical mechanics (Physical ReviewX 2020). The Habib lab highlighted roles of Wnt-signalling components and Glutamate receptors, in cytoneme formation, Wnt-interaction and Wnt-mediated asymmetric stem cell division (e-Life 2021 & JCB 2021), alongside discovering asymmetric inheritance of histones (Cell Reports 2020, STAR Prot. 2020).

 

In summary the Habib lab, in collaboration with international labs, ventures into new areas of science by building on Shukry’s previous work, resulting in novel technologies for growth and repair of musculoskeletal tissues and insights into early embryogenesis.

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NanoLive imaging (above) and schematic representation (below) of Wnt3a bead-induced cell division 

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Meet The Team

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Shukry Habib pursued his undergraduate studies in biology at the Technion in Israel. He received his Master’s degree in Biochemistry from Tel Aviv University in Israel under the supervision of Prof. Abdussalam Azem. Shukry completed his graduate doctorate studies (Dr. rer. nat) in Biochemistry under the supervision of Prof. Walter Neupert and Prof. Doron Rapaport at the Institute of Physiological Chemistry, LMU in Munich, Germany. His graduate studies focused on the biogenesis of mitochondrial membrane proteins. Shukry became a postdoctoral fellow in the lab of Prof. Roel Nusse at Stanford University, California. There, incorporating advanced imaging techniques and bioengineering, he established a novel system to study asymmetric cell division of mammalian stem cells. During this project, Shukry joined the Janelia (HHMI) visitor program and worked together with the group of the Nobel prize laureate Dr. Eric Betzig to visualize cell division at super-resolution under real time. Currently Shukry is a principal investigator at the Centre for Stem Cells and Regenerative Medicine at King's college London.

Shukry has received numerous awards and honors including: Minerva fellowship (Max-Plank Society), EMBO fellowship, DFG fellowship and Siebel scholar. He was also awarded the Sir Henry Dale fellowship (Wellcome Trust and Royal Society, UK), one of the most prestigious awards for young investigators.

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Sergi Junyent Espinosa earned his Bachelor’s degree in Biology from the University of Barcelona (Barcelona, Spain). As part of his Bachelor, Sergi completed an Erasmus Training Internship in the Institute of Molecular Genetics of the ASCR (Prague, Czech Republic), where he studied the role of ORMDL3 in the Mast Cell FceRI signalling pathway. Then, in 2016 Sergi completed an MSc degree in Biomedical Research at Pompeu Fabra University (Barcelona, Spain). His MSc thesis was performed at the Reprogramming and Regeneration group, Centre for Genomic Regulation (CRG), where he studied the role of the Wnt/β-catenin pathway in the control of pluripotency in mouse Embryonic Stem cells. Sergi is currently a postdoctoral researcher the Habib Lab. 

Habib Lab Alumni

Tung-Jui Trieu, PhD

James Szczerkowki, PhD

 

Soon Seng Ng, PhD 

 

Yoshishisa Okuchi, MD

Rebecca Contrudi

Zaynab Butt

Wladislaw Stroukov

Talha Hubeen, MD

Blaise Louis

Raymond O

Clare Garcin, PhD 

Gerladine Jowett

Anushka Bahrgava

Anna Worsley

Molly Lowndes, PhD

Deniz Kent

Alice Santambrogio

Adam Syanda

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Our Funders

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