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Division of Molecular Neurogenetics

Dr. Hai-Kun Liu

A human glioblastoma organoid

In the division of Molecular Neurogenetics, we aim to unravel the molecular mechanism drive brain development and brain diseases, including brain cancers. In the last years, We identified essential brain tumor stem cell regulators like TLX, and GPD1, which provide the proof-of-concept that a cancer stem cell KO leads to survival benefit in vivo (Cell Stem Cell, 2014, best papers of the year, highlighted in Nature Review Cancer). We recently identified GPD1 as the first dormant brain tumor stem cell marker and an essential regulator (Cell Stem Cell 2019). Dormant cancer cells across different tumor entities became a hot topic in recent years. We also unraveled the critical role of CHARGE syndrome protein CHD7 in governing cell differentiation, which is now widely accepted (Cell Stem Cell, 2013, Nature Comm, 2017). This also provides a basic molecular principle of understanding the human CHARGE syndrome.

Currently, we are generating advanced human brain organoid and brain tumor organoid models to mimic the genetic and phenotypic features of brain tumors, we us single cell genomic and CRISPR/CAS9 genome editing tools to dissect the molecular and cellular heterogeneity in brain tumors, with particular interest on the dormant cancer stem cells. We will try to translate our findings into clinics very actively. Our goal is to identify effect treatment for glioblastoma, which remains to be one of the deadliest human cancers.


Dr. Hai-Kun Liu
Molecular Neurogenetics (A240)
Deutsches Krebsforschungszentrum
Im Neuenheimer Feld 581
69120 Heidelberg
Tel: +49 6221 42 3266

Selected Publications

  • Rusu,P., Shao, C., Neuerburg, A., Acikgöz, A.A., Wu, Y., Zou, P., Phapale, P., Shankar, TS., Döring, K., Dettling, S., Körkel-Qu, H., Bekki, G., Costa, B., Guo, T., Friesen, O., Schlotter, M., Heikenwalder, M., Tschaharganeh, DF., Bukan, B., Kramer, G., Angel, P., Herold-Mende, C., Radlwimmer, B., Liu, H-K. (2019) GPD1 specifically marks dormant glioma stem cells with a distinct metabolic profile. Cell Stem Cell, 25, 241-257.e248
  • Feng, W., Kawauchi, D., Koekel-Qu, H., Deng, H., Serger, E., Sieber, L., Lieberman, JA., Jimeno-Gonzalez, S., Lambo, S., Hanna, B., Harim, Y., Jansen, M., Neuerburg, A., Friesen, O., Zuckermann, M., Rajendran,V., Gronych, J., Ayrault, O., Korshunov, A., Jones, D., Kool, M., Northcott, P., Lichter, P., Cortes-Ledesma, F., Pfister, SM., Liu H-K. (2017) Chd7 is indispensable for mamalian brain development through activation of a neuronal differentiation program. Nature Communications.8, 14758.
  • Zhu, Z., Kahn, A., Weiler, M., Blaes. J, Jestaedt L., Geibert M., Zou P., Gronych J., Bernhardt, O., Korshunov, A., Bugner, V., Lichter, P., Radlwimmer, B., Heiland S., Bendszus, M., Wick, W., Liu, H-K. (2014) Targeting self-renewal in high-grade brain tumors leads to loss of brain tumor stem cells and prolonged survival. Cell Stem Cell,15, 185-198
  • Feng, W., Kahn, A., Bellvis P., Zhu, Z., Bernhardt, O., Herold-Mende, C., Liu, H-K. (2013). The chromatin remodeler CHD7 regulates adult neurogenesis via activation of SoxC transcription factors. Cell Stem Cell, 13, 62–72
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