Sean Morrison is stem cell biologist who studies the cellular and molecular mechanisms that regulate stem cell function and the role these mechanisms play in cancer. His laboratory discovered key mechanisms that regulate stem cell self-renewal as well as the location and cellular composition of niches for hematopoietic stem cells in adult blood-forming tissues. Dr. Morrison was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia and completed a BSc in biology and chemistry at Dalhousie University in 1991. He completed a PhD in immunology at Stanford University in 1996 and a postdoctoral fellowship in neurobiology at Caltech in 1999. Dr. Morrison is a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator (since 2000) and is the founding Director of Children’s Research Institute at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (since 2011). He was elected to the National Academy of Medicine in 2018 and the National Academy of Sciences in 2020. Dr. Morrison served as the President of the International Society for Stem Cell Research (2015-16) and has been active in public policy work related to stem cell research, testifying before the U.S. Congress and serving as a leader in the successful “Proposal 2” campaign to protect stem cell research in Michigan’s state constitution (2008).

Research Interests

Sean Morrison's laboratory studies the intrinsic and extrinsic mechanisms that regulate stem cell self-renewal and the role these mechanisms play in cancer. They discovered a series of key regulators that distinguish stem cell self-renewal from the proliferation of restricted progenitors in the same tissues. They also identified ways in which self-renewal mechanisms change with age, conferring temporal changes in stem cell properties that match the changing growth and regeneration demands of tissues. In terms of cell-extrinsic mechanisms, they identified the location and cellular composition of hematopoietic stem cell niches in adult bone marrow and spleen, as well as new mechanisms by which the niche regulates stem cell maintenance. They also study the mechanisms that regulate the self-replication of cancer cells and how these mechanisms compare to the self-renewal of developmentally-related stem cells, particularly focusing on melanoma and leukemia. They discovered that distant metastasis is limited by oxidative stress and that successfully metastasizing melanoma cells undergo reversible metabolic changes that allow them to cope with oxidative stress. Recently, they have expanded the scope of their studies to uncover metabolic mechanisms that regulate stem cell function and cancer metastasis.

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Primary Section

Section 41: Medical Genetics, Hematology, and Oncology

Secondary Section

Section 22: Cellular and Developmental Biology