Jan 21, 2021 10:00 AM
Keren Hilgendorf, PhD, has recently joined the University of Utah School of Medicine as an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biochemistry. Born in Israel and raised primarily in Germany, Dr. Hilgendorf moved to Austin, Texas during high school and graduated with a BS in biology from the University of Texas at Austin. She then moved to Boston to pursue a PhD in biology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology under the supervision of Dr. Jacqueline Lees. Dr. Hilgendorf next moved to the West Coast and pursued her postdoctoral training at Stanford University School of Medicine with Dr. Peter Jackson. During her time at MIT, Dr. Hilgendorf received an NSF graduate fellowship and during her time at Stanford University, Dr. Hilgendorf received a Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship. She joined the faculty at the University of Utah in September 2020.
Dr. Hilgendorf developed an early interest in studying cell processes on a molecular level. During her PhD, she studied how the retinoblastoma protein (pRB) tumor suppressor regulates programmed cell death and how distinct functions of pRB can exploited in human cancers. During her postdoctoral training, she studied signal transduction pathways regulating cell differentiation to enable tissue homeostasis, expansion, and regeneration in the adult. Specifically, Dr. Hilgendorf showed that fat progenitor cells display a highly conserved cellular protrusion called a primary cilium, a highly sensitive sensory organelle that functions akin an antenna. She showed that the primary cilium of fat progenitor cells is a critical regulator of fat cell differentiation to enable the expansion of fat pads by displaying localized receptors that sense specific types of fatty acids, omega-3 fatty acids. This discovery has significant implications for metabolic health. Similarly, Dr. Hilgendorf showed that muscle progenitor cells are ciliated and organize signal transduction pathways to enable muscle regeneration post-injury, a process progressively lost during aging. Her research has been published in Cell, Current Opinion in Cell Biology, and Genes and Development and Dr. Hilgendorf has been invited to present her findings at domestic and international conferences. At Utah, the Hilgendorf Lab will continue to explore molecular mechanisms regulating differentiation, and how dysfunctions in signal transduction pathways contribute to pathogenesis.
Dr. Hilgendorf is excited to mentor the next generation of students and researchers and to share her passion for discovery with them. Outside the lab, Dr. Hilgendorf loves to explore and spend time with her family.