Centre for Inflammation Research

Professor Elaine Dzierzak

Elaine Dzierzak's lab aims to identify the molecules involved in the generation of haematopoietic stem cells (HSC) and to generate patient-specific HSCs for clinical cell replacement therapies to treat blood-related genetic diseases and leukaemia.

Professor Elaine Dzierzak

Chair of Haematological Regeneration

  • Centre for Inflammation Research

Contact details

Group Members

Image of Dzierzak group
  • Chris S Vink - Lab Manager (email)
  • Samanta A Mariani - Senior Postdoctoral Fellow (email)
  • Carmen Rodriguez Seoane - Postdoctoral Research Fellow (email)
  • Eoghan Forde - MRC DTP Precision Medicine PhD student (email)

  • Anna Popravko - Wellcome Trust Tissue Repair PhD Student (email)

  • Lorna Mackintosh - Wellcome Trust ECAT PhD Student (email)

  • Gráinne Neary - Wellcome Trust ECAT PhD student (in collaboration with Professor Andrew Jackson, The University of Edinburgh) (email)


Stem cells are the foundation of somatic tissues and are required for the constant renewal and/or replacement of cells either undergoing normal senescence or damage from exogenous agents. The haematopoietic system requires the constant production of billions of blood cells daily (erythrocytes, lymphocytes, platelets, macrophages, eosinphils, etc). These cells are provided through the functional activity of rare haematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) harbored in the bone marrow of the adult individual. For over 50 years, HSCs have been used in hundreds of thousands of transplantation therapies for blood-related genetic diseases and leukaemias. However, current clinical therapies are limited by the number of HSCs available for such transplantations and attempts to expand such cells ex vivo have been unsuccessful. Well aware of the important clinical uses, HSCs have been the most intensively studied somatic stem cells.

Our lab aims to identify the molecules involved in the generation of HSCs and to generate patient-specific HSCs for clinical cell replacement therapies to treat blood-related genetic diseases and leukaemia.

3D projection of mouse embryonic aorta containing HSC clusters (green). Endothelial cells lining the vasculature are in magenta (Yokomizo T & Dzierzak E, Development. 2010).

Our laboratory was the first to show that HSCs are born in the aorta-gonad-mesonephros region of the developing mammalian embryo. We have recently shown through a live imaging approach that HSCs arise from endothelial cells lining the wall of the embryonic aorta in a natural reprogramming event. This transdifferentiation is known as Endothelial cell-to Hematopoietic cell transition (EHT). We are one of the few groups worldwide that can isolate these special endothelial cells and show that they yield robust transplantable HSCs (the gold-standard for clinically relevant HSCs). Using our unique expertise and novel resources (models and reagents), our laboratory fosters new translational strategies to de novo generate human HSCs from patient somatic cells. Our specific goals are to:

  1. mark and manipulate the molecular program for HSC generation during the EHT
  2. define extrinsic molecules/factors affecting EHT and engineer novel niches to promote EHT
  3. molecularly reprogram human somatic cells or endothelial derived iPS cells directly to HSC

These goals will be realized through novel multi-colour in vivo reporter models and ES/iPS lines indicating EHT in real-time, allowing for the isolation and functional validation of de novo HSC generation. The results will significantly advance haematological research and technology, and should have a major impact on how HSCs are manipulated and used clinically.

Real-time birth of a HSC from an endothelial cell lining the wall of a mouse embryonic aorta (Boisset J-C. et al., Nature. 2010).

Biographical Profile

Elaine Dzierzak obtained her PhD in Immunology from Yale University and did postdoctoral training in retroviral mediated gene transfer at the Whitehead Institute, MIT. She started her research laboratory at the National Institute for Medical Research, London (UK). In 1996 she moved to the Erasmus University Medical Center in Rotterdam (NL) where she was Professor of Developmental Biology, founder and co-director of the Master of Science Program in Molecular Medicine, and the Founding Director of the Erasmus Stem Cell Institute. She moved to The University of Edinburgh in 2013. 

Honours and Awards

  • Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE)
  • Elected member of EMBO
  • Past President of the International Society for Experimental Hematology (ISEH)
  • Founding Director of the Erasmus MC Stem Cell Institute
  • Co-Director of the Netherlands Institute for Regenerative Medicine (NIRM)
  • Fellow of The Academy of Medical Sciences (FMedSci)
  • Elected member of the Journal of Experimental Medicine's Advisory Editorial Board

Principal Investigator Alumni

  • Mihaela Crisan - Centre for Regenerative Medicine, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
  • Emma de Pater - Department of Hematology, Erasmus MC, Rotterdam, The Netherlands
  • Catherine Robin - Hubrecht Institute, Utrecht, The Netherlands
  • Tomomasa Yokomizo - Department of Hematology, Juntendo U School of Medicine, Tokyo, Japan
  • Katrin Ottersbach - Centre for Regenerative Medicine, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
  • Marella de BruijnMRC Molecular Haematology Unit, Oxford University, Oxford, UK
  • Charles Durand - UPMC, Laboratoire de Biologie du Developpement, Paris, France
  • Robert Oostendorp - Technical University of Munich, Munich, Germany
  • Alexander Medvinsky - Centre for Regenerative Medicine, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK
  • Maria-Jose Sanchez
  • David Abraham - UCL Medical School - Royal Free Hospital, London, UK
  • Colin Miles- Faculty of Medical Sciences, Newcastle University, Newcastle, UK

Sources of Funding

European Commission

More information on funding at Elaine Dzierzak's Research Explorer profile.