Alexander Birbrair, PhD

Position title: Assistant Professor, Department of Dermatology


Phone: 608-698-0034

Organ System/Disease Focus:
Aligned Research Focus:
Tumor microenvironment, niche, stem cells, pericytes, peripheral nervous system



Research Description:

Our lab is committed to understanding the mechanisms of impairment and failure of biological systems under pathological conditions with emphasis on preventing or reversing these deleterious processes. We focus on tissue stem cells, vasculature, and the peripheral nervous system present in different tissues microenvironments. We are interested in studying mechanisms that lead to cell behavior changes during development and throughout life. Understanding how these mechanisms are affected in cancer will help develop targets for novel therapies. For this, we take advantage of state-of-the-art technologies, including two-photon and confocal microscopy, in vivo lineage-tracing methods, FACS-sorting, single-cell RNA sequencing, organ, tissue and cell transplantation, neural circuitry analysis, and sophisticated Cre/loxP techniques in combination with cancer mouse models. Thus, our ultimate goal is to identify novel potential cellular and molecular targets for cancer therapy.

Selected References: 

  1. Nobre AR, Risson E, Singh DK, Martino JD, Cheung JF, Wang J, Johnson J, Russnes HG, Bravo-Cordero JJ, Birbrair A, Naume B, Azhar M, Frenette PS, Aguirre-Ghiso JA. (2021) Bone marrow NG2+/Nestin+ mesenchymal stem cells drive DTC dormancy via TGF-β2. Nature Cancer. 2:327–339. doi: 10.1038/s43018-021-00179-8. PMID: 34993493.
  2. Birbrair A, Sattiraju A, Zhu D, Zulato G, Batista I, Nguyen VT, Messi ML, Solingapuram Sai KK, Marini FC, Delbono O, Mintz A. (2017) Novel Peripherally Derived Neural-Like Stem Cells as Therapeutic Carriers for Treating Glioblastomas. Stem Cells Translational Medicine. 6(2):471-481. PMID: 28191774.
  3. Asada N, Kunisaki Y, Pierce H, Wang Z, Fernandez NF, Birbrair A, Ma’ayan A, Frenette PS. (2017) Differential cytokine contributions of perivascular haematopoietic stem cell niches. Nature Cell Biology. 19(3):214-223. PMID: 28218906.
  4. Khan JA, Mendelson A, Kunisaki Y, Birbrair A, Kou Y, Arnal A, Pinho S, Ciero P, Nakahara F, Ma’ayan A, Bergman A, Merad M and Frenette PS. (2015) Identification of a portal vessel-associated fetal liver hematopoietic stem cell niche. Science. 351:176-180. PMID: 26634440.
  5. Birbrair A, Zhang T, Wang ZM, Messi ML, Olson JD, Mintz A and Delbono O. (2014). Type-2 Pericytes Participate in Normal and Tumoral Angiogenesis. American Journal of Physiology-Cell Physiology. 307 (1): C25-C38. PMID: 24788248.