Lingling Miao was born and educated in China, receiving her Ph.D. degree from the Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS) in 2013. After that, she worked as an assistant and then associate investigator in CAS studying miRNA-mediated gene regulation. She subsequently joined Dr. Isaac Brownell’s lab in 2016 as a visiting fellow to study Merkel cell development and the related skin cancer Merkel cell carcinoma.
Merkel cells are neuroendocrine cells in the epidermis with both neuronal and epithelial features. They are innervated by nerve endings and functions in light touch sensation. In mouse skin, Merkel cells cluster in a specialized structure called the touch dome. Merkel cells are derived from epithelial progenitors, however, the underlying molecular mechanisms of this process are largely unknown. Using sophisticated mouse genetics and single-cell transcriptome analysis， Lingling Miao studies the roadmap of embryonic Merkel cell development, and the regulatory mechanisms through which epithelial progenitors give rise to neuroendocrine cells. Since embryonic development shares many similarities with tumorigenesis, she also investigates how the signaling pathways responsible for Merkel cell development function in Merkel cell carcinoma.