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Research interests

The lab of Dr. Sara Stahley broadly studies how cells interact with one another to regulate development and tissue organization. More specifically, the lab studies the cell-cell interactions that drive collective cell behaviors. This coordination between neighboring cells, essential for embryonic development and tissue patterning, is regulated by the planar cell polarity (PCP) pathway. An excellent example of PCP, or collective polarization along a tissue plane, is the ordered alignment of body hairs across the mammalian skin along the anterior-posterior body access.

A hallmark of PCP is the polarized, asymmetric localization of core PCP proteins at cell junctions, which is driven by intercellular interactions of cadherin family member Celsr. Major efforts in the lab seek to understand the mechanisms that regulate Celsr-mediated adhesion and PCP asymmetry, and how these functions are perturbed in disease. Toward these efforts, the lab utilizes the mammalian skin as a model system, along with cell and molecular biology, biochemistry and advanced imaging approaches.

Overall, the Stahley lab aims to provide key insights into the mechanisms that coordinate PCP and how epithelial junction organization at the molecular level is regulated during development, epidermal homeostasis and human disease. 

Teaching and educational interests

Dr. Sara Stahley is a faculty member in the Biomedical Sciences graduate program at Penn State College of Medicine.

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being

Education/Academic qualification

Postdoctoral Fellowship, Princeton University


Postdoctoral Research, Emory University


Biochemistry, Cell and Developmental Biology, PhD, Emory University


Chemistry, Biomolecular Sciences, BS, Clarkson University



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