Dr. Crooks uses hematopoietic stem cells to bolster and rebuild patients' immune systems. A leading researcher of hematopoietic stem cell behavior, Dr. Crooks defines the intricate cellular processes driving human immune-system creation.
Discovery by discovery, Dr. Crooks builds the advanced knowledge necessary to bring healthy immune systems to as many patients as possible.
Bone marrow transplants hold promise for healing a variety of immune diseases. The procedure supplies patients with hematopoietic stem cells that can turn into functional immune-system cells. However, bone marrow transplants pose undeniable and serious risks when stem cells do not behave as planned.
To better predict—and influence—the results of bone marrow transplants, Dr. Crooks strives to decode hematopoietic stem cell behavior.
The Crooks Lab has already defined genes important to early stem cell development and ways stem cells mature into immune-system cells.
Recently, Dr. Crooks and her team used RNA sequencing to pinpoint genes associated with the development of white blood cells. Isolating these genes allows researchers to dig deep into the processes that generate either T cells or B cells.
The team hopes to leverage their findings to define the mechanisms driving normal white blood cell development and detect the underlying process flaws leading to immune deficiencies. Read more in LncRNA Profiling of Human Lymphoid Progenitors Reveals Transcriptional Divergence of B and T Lineages, published in Nature Immunology.
In addition to mapping stem cell behavior, Dr. Crooks hopes to better understand, and even recreate, T cells—the chief operatives of immune response. To achieve that goal, she focuses on the thymus, the gland that facilitates production and direction of T cells.
Dr. Crooks has already applied her research to develop thymic organoids that can generate mature T cells from human hematopoietic stem and progenitor cells.
The team hopes to leverage the organoids to improve immune function and even engineer T cells designed to attack cancer cells.
With every gene, mechanism, and process discovered, Dr. Crooks and her team build an unprecedented understanding of cellular behavior with potential to drive the growth of optimal immune systems that fight diseases—or even halt their development.