The Stem Cell and Cancer Biology Laboratory of Nagarajan Kannan, Ph.D., M.S., is dedicated to improving scientific knowledge to build and maintain healthy tissues and to prevent or treat conditions such as cancer.

About Dr. Kannan's research

Human tissue maintains a steady-state and function using different types of cells and their relative numbers to fulfill their physiological roles. Pools of long-lived self-renewing stem cells in such tissue ensure a constant supply of cells needed for tissue renewal.

During tissue renewal, stem cells transition through different molecular states, ultimately acquiring a terminal (mature) cell-state.

Primitive (stem and progenitor) cell-state has been implicated as the cell of origin for cancers in various tissues. A large body of epidemiologic studies has identified a number of cancer risk factors, such as sex and age and various genetic, environmental and lifestyle factors.

Acquisition of altered molecular features, in response to these risk factors, in the ostensibly normal primitive cell compartments, may lead to distortions in molecular states and their transitions, ultimately generating aberrant clones with increased risk of mutagenesis and cancer initiation.

There's insufficient knowledge about physiological mechanisms regulating stem cells and their molecular transitions and their vulnerabilities to acquire mutagenic or oncogenic states in conditions such as aging and cancer.

Therefore, a clear understanding of stem cell differentiation processes and the biology of cancer risk associated with early changes in stem and progenitor cells is important to reduce or prevent cancer risk.

Similarly, understanding the identity and function of primitive cells with malignant properties may provide critical information about cancer stem cells and their roles in the disease progression and therapy resistance.

Our lab focuses on understanding the influences of genetics and aging on human mammary gland development and breast cancer initiation.

About Dr. Kannan's lab

Our lab conducts both basic and translational research. We need creative and competent students, trainees and staff who can further empower the laboratory through their rigorous learning and dedication.

The lab provides clean rooms with standard facilities for mammalian tissue and cell culture, lentiviral culture, bacterial culture, custom-built hypoxic workstations, state-of-the-art multimode and high-content imagers, and standard molecular biology and biochemistry workbenches.

Other facilities to which our trainees have access include digital PCR, 10x Genomics, nanostring technology, mass and flow cytometers (analyzers and sorters), confocal laser microscopes, and animal facilities.

Because Dr. Kannan is a faculty member of the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, the lab team has access to a wealth of shared resources, including the Bioinformatics Core, Cytogenetics Core, Pathology Research Core and others. In addition, lab trainees have access to cutting-edge technologies through Mayo Clinic core resources and to many opportunities for professional development and leadership.

About Dr. Kannan

In addition to being principal investigator of the Stem Cell and Cancer Biology Lab and conducting clinical studies, Dr. Kannan is an assistant professor of laboratory medicine and pathology at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science in Rochester, Minnesota. Dr. Kannan's mission is to discover rare, cancer-prone faulty progenitor cells hidden in healthy breast tissues. This research may lead to improved early detection of cancer and to preventive therapies for people at a higher risk of developing breast cancer.