Our Science

Ellen Heber-Katz, Ph.D.

Ellen Heber-Katz, Ph.D.

  • Professor, Molecular and Cellular Oncogenesis Program

  • Scientific Director, Histotechnology Facility
  • 215-898-3710, Office

For the past decade, the Heber-Katz laboratory has focused its attention primarily in the areas of regeneration studies in mice and mechanisms of oncogenesis. Prior to that time, the focus had been studies in immunology, centering on the genetics and molecular biology of autoimmunity when the immune system attacks the body’s own cells and on anti-viral vaccines. However, the chance discovery in this laboratory that a certain mouse strain (the MRL)—which is the workhorse of autoimmunity models—was also capable of profound healing through the regeneration of tissues and organs led to a radical shift in direction. Studies pioneered in this Wistar Institute laboratory have established the MRL mouse as a gold standard of mammalian regeneration studies with the finding that a single gene, p21, controls the entire process.

Over a decade of research has led to a deep understanding of the genetic, molecular biology, cell biology and physiology of regeneration in this remarkable mouse having profound implications for human application. But, a second and potentially more important outcome has been a new connection to cancer. The p21 pathway is intimately related to oncogenesis through its cousin p53. So, as the history of science so convincingly demonstrates it is through the pursuit of basic science—in our case from auto-immunity to regeneration to cancer—that progress lies.

Dr. Heber-Katz came to The Wistar Institute as an assistant professor in 1982 from the Laboratory of Immunology, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) of the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Heber-Katz was an undergraduate at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where she would later receive a master’s degree in Immunology. She earned her Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania.

Selected Publications

1    Strehin I, Gourevitch D, Zhang Y, Heber-Katz E, Messersmith PB. Hydrogels Formed by Oxo-ester Mediated Native Chemical Ligation. Biomater Sci. 2013 Jun 1;1(6):603-613. PMID: 23894696 [PubMed]

2    Cheng CH, Leferovich J, Zhang XM, Bedelbaeva K, Gourevitch D, Hatcher CJ, Basson CT, Heber-Katz E, Marx KA. Keratin gene expression profiles after digit amputation in C57BL/6 vs. regenerative MRL mice imply an early regenerative keratinocyte activated-like state. Physiol Genomics. 2013 Jun 3;45(11):409-21. doi: 10.1152/physiolgenomics.00142.2012. Epub 2013 Mar 19. PMID: 23512742 

3    Heber-Katz E, Zhang Y, Bedelbaeva K, Song F, Chen X, Stocum DL. Cell cycle regulation and regeneration. Curr Top Microbiol Immunol. 2013;367:253-76. doi: 10.1007/82_2012_294. Review. PMID: 23263201  

4    Rai MF, Hashimoto S, Johnson EE, Janiszak KL, Fitzgerald J, Heber-Katz E, Cheverud JM, Sandell LJ. Heritability of articular cartilage regeneration and its association with ear wound healing in mice. Arthritis Rheum. 2012 Jul;64(7):2300-10. doi: 10.1002/art.34396. PMID: 22275233  

5    Cheverud JM, Lawson HA, Funk R, Zhou J, Blankenhorn EP, Heber-Katz E. Healing quantitative trait loci in a combined cross analysis using related mouse strain crosses. Heredity (Edinb). 2012 Apr;108(4):441-6. doi: 10.1038/hdy.2011.94. Epub 2011 Nov 30. PMID: 22126848  

6    Arthur LM, Heber-Katz E. The role of p21 in regulating mammalian regeneration. Stem Cell Res Ther. 2011 Jun 29;2(3):30., 21722344

7    Arthur LM, Demarest RM, Clark L, gourevitch D, et al., Capobianco AJ, Lieberman P, Feigenbaum L, Heber-Katz, E., Epimorphic regeneration in mice is p53-dependent., Cell Cycle. 2010 Sep;9(18):3667-73. [Epub 2010 Sep 21.], 20855943

8    Vorotnikova E, McIntosh D, Dewilde A, et al., Heber-Katz, E, Badylak SF, Braunhut SJ., Extracellular matrix-derived products modulate endothelial and progenitor cell migration and proliferation in vitro and stimulate regenerative healing in vivo., Matrix Biology. 2010 Aug 24., 20797438

9    Bedelbaeva K, Snyder A, Gourevitch D, Clark L, Zhang XM, Leferovich J, Cheverud JM, Lieberman P, Heber-Katz, E., Lack of p21 expression links cell cycle control and appendage regeneration in mice., Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the U S A. 2010 Mar 30;107(13):5845-50. [Epub 2010 Mar 15] Comment in: Nature Reviews Genetics. 2010 May;11(5):314., 20231440

10   Wang G, Badylak SF, Heber-Katz, E, Braunhut SJ, Gudas LJ., The effects of DNA methyltransferase inhibitors and histone deacetylase inhibitors on digit regeneration in mice., Regenerative Medicine. 2010 Mar;5(2):201-20., 20210581

11   Blankenhorn EP, Bryan G, Kossenkov AV, Clark LD, Zhang XM, Chang C, Horng W,et al., Showe LC, Heber-Katz, E., Genetic loci that regulate healing and regeneration in LG/J and SM/J mice., Mammalian Genome. 2009 Nov-Dec;20(11-12):720-33. [Epub 2009 Sep 16], 19760323

12   Heber-Katz, E, Gourevitch D., The relationship between inflammation and regeneration in the MRL mouse: potential relevance for putative human regenerative(scarless wound healing) capacities?, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences. 2009 Aug;1172:110-4., 19735244

13   Gourevitch DL, Clark L, Bedelbaeva K, Leferovich J, Heber-Katz, E., Dynamic changes after murine digit amputation: the MRL mouse digit shows waves of tissue remodeling, growth, and apoptosis., Wound Repair and Regeneration. 2009 May-Jun;17(3):447-55., 19660054

14   Naviaux RK, Le TP, Bedelbaeva K, Leferovich J, Gourevitch D, Sachadyn P, Zhang XM, Clark L, Heber-Katz, E., Retained features of embryonic metabolism in the adult MRL mouse., Molecular Genetics and Metabolism. 2009 Mar;96(3):133-144. 19131261

15   Reing JE, Zhang L, Myers-Irvin J, Cordero KE, Freytes DO, Heber-Katz, E, Bedelbaeva K, et al., Degradation products of extracellular matrix affect cell migration and proliferation., Tissue Engineering Part A. 2009 Mar;15(3):605-14., 18652541

16   Sachadyn P, Zhang XM, Clark LD, Naviaux RK, Heber-Katz, E., Naturally occurring mitochondrial DNA heteroplasmy in the MRL mouse., Mitochondrion. 2008 Dec;8(5-6):358-66., 18761428