BBS Faculty Member - Kara McKinley

Kara McKinley

Assistant Professor

Harvard University
Stem Cell & Regenerative Biology Department, Bauer Laboratory, #306

7 Divinity Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
Visit my lab page here.

We study how epithelial tissues generate the right cells in the right places as they renew and regenerate during adulthood.  
Our lab focuses on two of the most dynamic organ systems in mammals: the small intestine and the uterus. The intestinal epithelium is in a constant state of flux, replacing almost all of its cells every 3-5 days, and can rapidly regenerate its diverse cell types upon damage. The human uterine lining (endometrium) undergoes dramatic tissue remodeling each month over the menstrual cycle, followed by shedding during menstruation and subsequent repair, ultimately regenerating ~400 times over the reproductive lifespan. Together, these systems provide powerful complimentary models to reveal unifying principles of regeneration, as well as to identify key aspects of organ-specific physiology.  
We use high-resolution live microscopy to watch and perturb regeneration in real time, and use a variety of genetic, molecular, and cell biological approaches to mechanistically dissect these processes over single-cell and tissue length scales. Our goals are to define the cellular and molecular mechanisms underlying the remarkable regenerative capacity of these organs, to understand how defects in these processes give rise to pathologies including cancers and endometriosis, and to harness their regenerative mechanisms for the precise repair of old or damaged tissues. 

Last Update: 8/31/2020


For a complete listing of publications click here.



Skokan, T. D., Vale, R. D. & McKinley, K. L.Cell Sorting in Hydra vulgaris Arises from Differing Capacities for Epithelialization between Cell Types. Curr Biol, doi:10.1016/j.cub.2020.07.035 (2020)

McKinley, K.L.*, Castillo-Azofeifa, D.*, and Klein, O.D. (2020). Tools and Concepts for Interrogating and Defining Cellular Identity. Cell Stem Cell 26, 632-656.

McKinley, K.L., Stuurman, N., Royer, L.A., Schartner, C., Castillo-Azofeifa, D., Delling, M., Klein, O.D., and Vale, R.D. (2018). Cellular aspect ratio and cell division mechanics underlie the patterning of cell progeny in diverse mammalian epithelia. Elife 7. doi: 10.7554/eLife.36739

McKinley, K.L., and Cheeseman, I.M. (2017). Large-Scale Analysis of CRISPR/Cas9 Cell-Cycle Knockouts Reveals the Diversity of p53-Dependent Responses to Cell-Cycle Defects. Developmental Cell 40, 405-420.

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