BDR researchers coming from diverse research fields are working together to achieve higher goals.

Seminars & Symposia

Seminars & Symposia

BDR hosts annual symposium and regular seminars inviting international scientists in life science.

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Careers & Study

BDR embraces people from diverse backgrounds, and strives to create an open and supportive setting for research.



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About Us

About Us

Exploring the scientific foundations of life through interdisciplinary approaches to address society’s problems.

Photo of Team leder, Hironobu Fujiwara

Team Leader
Hironobu Fujiwara Ph.D.

Laboratory for Tissue Microenvironment

Location Kobe / Developmental Biology Buildings


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Recruiting graduate students

Uncovering how stem cells and their niches participate in skin development and regeneration

We study how tissue stem cells and their microenvironments interact to regulate organ development, homeostasis and regeneration using mammalian skin as a model.

Tissue stem cells are specialized cells with the capacity for long-term self-renewal and differentiation into multiple cell types, and play a central role in organ development, homeostasis and regeneration. The behaviour and fate of stem cells are regulated by signals from their microenviroment, called the ‘niche’, which is composed of various components, such as extracellular matrix, growth factors and surrounding cells. However, it remains unclear how stem cells and their niches are induced during development, how they communicate with each other, and how these communication networks are altered during tissue regeneration and repair.

We have recently elucidated the developmental origin of hair follicle epithelial stem cells. Stem cells are originated from the outermost ring region of a 2D concentric pre-pattern in the hair placode, and are induced into their future stem cell niche through close coupling with 3D tissue deformation and expansion. Our studies and others have also shown that stem cells do not simply respond to signals from the niche, rather they play an integral role in creating and communicating with their niches. We are applying and developing new imaging tools and techniques, and combine them with single-cell transcriptomics to help us study dynamic interactions between stem cells and their niches. Stem cell dysfunction causes a wide variety of diseases, such as birth defects and cancer, and thus understanding of stem cell-niche communications has huge implications in future medical advances.

Research Theme

  • Stem cell induction and maintenance, and its extrinsic regulation in the skin
  • Extracellular matrix heterogeneity in skin development and regeneration
artwork of hair follicles

Hair follicles grow outward, like a telescopic antenna (prospective stem cells shown in pink).

Selected Publications

Morita R, Sanzen N, Sasaki H, et al.
Tracing the origin of hair follicle stem cells.
Nature 594, 547-552 (2021) doi: 10.1038/s41586-021-03638-5

Tsutsui K, Machida H, Nakagawa A, et al.
Mapping the molecular and structural specialization of the skin basement membrane for inter-tissue interactions.
Nature communications 12(1), 2577 (2021) doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-22881-y

Fujiwara H, Tsutsui K, Morita R, et al.
Multi-tasking epidermal stem cells: Beyond epidermal maintenance.
Development, Growth & Differentiation 60(9), 531-541 (2018) doi: 10.1111/dgd.12577

Cheng CC, Tsutsui K, Taguchi T, et al.
Hair follicle epidermal stem cells define a niche for tactile sensation.
eLife 7, e38883 (2018) doi: 10.7554/eLife.38883

Donati G, Proserpio V, Lichtenberger B M, et al.
Epidermal Wnt/beta-catenin signaling regulates adipocyte differentiation via secretion of adipogenic factors.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 111, E1501-9 (2014) doi: 10.1073/pnas.1312880111

Fujiwara H, Ferreira M, Donati G, et al.
The basement membrane of hair follicle stem cells is a muscle cell niche.
Cell 144, 577-89 (2011) doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2011.01.014

Watt F M, Fujiwara H.
Cell-extracellular matrix interactions in normal and diseased skin.
Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Biology 3(4), a005124 (2011) doi: 10.1101/cshperspect.a005124


Hironobu Fujiwara

Team Leader

Ritsuko Morita

Research Scientist

Asako Nakagawa

Technical Staff II

Noriko Ban

Technical Staff II

Hiroki Machida

Junior Research Associate

Duligengaowa Wuergezhen

International Program Associate

Ko Tsutsui

Visiting Scientist

Kyungmin Ahn

Visiting Scientist

Jun Yokota

Visiting Scientist

Weiwen Liu

Visiting Scientist