Majka, Susan, Ph.D.


Associate Professor of Medicine,Cell & Developmental Biology, Pathology, Microbiology & Immunology

Primary Department:
Department of Medicine
Allergy, Pulmonary, and Critical Care Medicine
Office Address:

FedEX/lab: 539 Light Hall
21st Ave South at Garland
Nashville, TN 37232

Mail: 1161 21st AveS
T-1218 MCN
Nashville, TN 37232-2650

Office Phone:

615 322 5206

Office Fax:
Medical School & Degree:

Undergraduate school and degree: Cook College at Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, B.S., B.S.

Graduate school and degrees: University of New Mexico School of Medicine, Albuquerque, NM, Ph.D.

Board & Certifications:


ABIM & Subspecialty:

Brief Bio:

Susan M Krisinski Majka grew up in New Jersey and attended Cook College at Rutgers University where she graduated as a George H Cook Honors scholar with a BS in Biotechnology and a BS in Animal Science. She attended graduate school at The University of New Mexico in Albuquerque in one of the pioneer umbrella training programs in Biomedical Sciences, with a focus on Cell & Molecular Biology.  After seminal postdoctoral work in the study of retinal neoangiogenesis with Dr. Arup Das and vascular stem cell biology with Dr. Karen Hirschi at Baylor College of medicine, Dr. Majka was recruited to an Assistant Professorship at the University of Colorado where she established her research program as the Director of Stem Cell Research in the Cardiovascular Pulmonary Research Group (CVP) and was promoted to Associate Professor. During that time she identified and characterized the ABCG2 Lung MSC as a novel non-contractile pericyte population, important in the regulation of microvascular homeostasis. Her lab has have developed techniques to isolate, differentiate and analyze mesenchymal stem cell phenotype, proliferation, inflammation, migration and matrix synthesis both in vitro and in vivo.  To complement her mouse models of disease her laboratory has developed a method for mesenchymal, endothelial and smooth muscle differentiation of murine and human iPS cells. Dr. Majka was recruited to Vanderbilt as an established. She was recruited to Vanderbilt in 2012 where she received tenure in 2014.


Mesenchymal stem cells, vascular biology, induced pluripotent stem cell modeling of human lung disease, Vascular remodeling in chronic lung diseases

Research Focus:

The focus of the work in my laboratory is to understand how the normal and reparative function of resident lung mesenchymal stem cells (MSC) is altered during the development and course of lung diseases including pulmonary hypertension, fibrosis and emphysema. In order to define a role for lung MSC during lung disease we employ mouse models. Additionally we use patient derived MSC and induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS) as cell based models to understand changes in which occur in MSC as a result of disease specific gene mutations.

 Our laboratory has identified and characterized the novel cell population of lung MSC. We have demonstrated that these cells are present in the distal lung associated with the smallest blood vessels that promote gas exchange in both mouse and human tissue. Recent studies in our lab have shown that normal function of the lung MSC is to maintaining the function of the smallest blood vessels in the lung. When compromised in disease these cells become abnormal and participate in remodeling, causing loss of blood vessel function.

 There is an increasing emphasis on the development of cell-based therapies to address these conditions, but the lung is a recalcitrant candidate for these strategies because of the diverse cell types and functions as well as a lack of understanding of how chronic disease processes affect stem cell differentiation.   Therefore, prior to testing cell-based therapy, it is desirable to use pre-clinical models of lung injury and chronic disease to determine how changes in the lung tissue during the development of disease affect resident stem cell differentiation and function.


McCurdy, CE, Schenk, S, Holliday, MJ, Philp, A, Houck, JA, Patsouris, D, Maclean, PS, Majka, SM, Klemm, DJ, Friedman, JE. Attenuated pik3r1 expression prevents insulin resistance and adipose tissue macrophage accumulation in diet-induced obese mice. Diabetes, 61(10), 2495-505, 2012.

Bilousova, G, Jun, du H, King, KB, De Langhe, S, Chick, WS, Torchia, EC, Chow, KS, Klemm, DJ, Roop, DR, Majka, SM. Osteoblasts derived from induced pluripotent stem cells form calcified structures in scaffolds both in vitro and in vivo. Stem Cells, 29(2), 206-16, 2011. PMCID:3321731

Chow, KS, Jun, D, Helm, KM, Wagner, DH, Majka, SM. Isolation & characterization of Hoechst(low) CD45(negative) mouse lung mesenchymal stem cells. J Vis Exp, (56), e3159, 2011. PMCID:3227187

Ikonomou, L, Hemnes, AR, Bilousova, G, Hamid, R, Loyd, JE, Hatzopoulos, AK, Kotton, DN, Majka, SM, Austin, ED. Programmatic change: lung disease research in the era of induced pluripotency. Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol, 301(6), L830-5, 2011. PMCID:3227187

Jun, D, Garat, C, West, J, Thorn, N, Chow, K, Cleaver, T, Sullivan, T, Torchia, EC, Childs, C, Shade, T, Tadjali, M, Lara, A, Nozik-Grayck, E, Malkoski, S, Sorrentino, B, Meyrick, B, Klemm, D, Rojas, M, Wagner, DH, Majka, SM. The pathology of bleomycin-induced fibrosis is associated with loss of resident lung mesenchymal stem cells that regulate effector T-cell proliferation. Stem Cells, 29(4), 725-35, 2011. PMCID:3322548

Klemm, DJ, Majka, SM, Crossno, JT, Psilas, JC, Reusch, JE, Garat, CV. Reduction of reactive oxygen species prevents hypoxia-induced CREB depletion in pulmonary artery smooth muscle cells. J Cardiovasc Pharmacol, 58(2), 181-91, 2011. PMCID:3155008

Majka, SM, Barak, Y, Klemm, DJ. Concise review: adipocyte origins: weighing the possibilities. Stem Cells, 29(7), 1034-40, 2011. PMCID:3428116

Majka, SM, Fox, KE, Psilas, JC, Helm, KM, Childs, CR, Acosta, AS, Janssen, RC, Friedman, JE, Woessner, BT, Shade, TR, Varella-Garcia, M, Klemm, DJ. De novo generation of white adipocytes from the myeloid lineage via mesenchymal intermediates is age, adipose depot, and gender specific. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A, 107(33), 14781-6, 2010. PMCID:2930432

Takeda, K, Okamoto, M, de Langhe, S, Dill, E, Armstrong, M, Reisdorf, N, Irwin, D, Koster, M, Wilder, J, Stenmark, KR, West, J, Klemm, D, Gelfand, EW, Nozik-Grayck, E, Majka, SM. Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor-g agonist treatment increases septation and angiogenesis and decreases airway hyperresponsiveness in a model of experimental neonatal chronic lung disease. Anat Rec (Hoboken), 292(7), 1045-61, 2009. PMCID:2873208

Tanaka, KK, Hall, JK, Troy, AA, Cornelison, DD, Majka, SM, Olwin, BB. Syndecan-4-expressing muscle progenitor cells in the SP engraft as satellite cells during muscle regeneration. Cell Stem Cell, 4(3), 217-25, 2009. PMCID:3142572

Majka, SM, Skokan, M, Wheeler, L, Harral, J, Gladson, S, Burnham, E, Loyd, JE, Stenmark, KR, Varella-Garcia, M, West, J. Evidence for cell fusion is absent in vascular lesions associated with pulmonary arterial hypertension. Am J Physiol Lung Cell Mol Physiol, 295(6), L1028-39, 2008. PMCID:2604796

Crossno, JT, Majka, SM, Grazia, T, Gill, RG, Klemm, DJ. Rosiglitazone promotes development of a novel adipocyte population from bone marrow-derived circulating progenitor cells. J Clin Invest, 116(12), 3220-8, 2006. PMCID:1679707

Fox, KE, Fankell, DM, Erickson, PF, Majka, SM, Crossno, JT, Klemm, DJ. Depletion of cAMP-response element-binding protein/ATF1 inhibits adipogenic conversion of 3T3-L1 cells ectopically expressing CCAAT/enhancer-binding protein (C/EBP) alpha, C/EBP beta, or PPAR gamma 2. J Biol Chem, 281(52), 40341-53, 2006. PMCID:1679707

Majka, SM, Beutz, MA, Hagen, M, Izzo, AA, Voelkel, N, Helm, KM. Identification of novel resident pulmonary stem cells: form and function of the lung side population. Stem Cells, 23(8), 1073-81, 2005. PMCID:1679707

Majka, SM, Jackson, KA, Kienstra, KA, Majesky, MW, Goodell, MA, Hirschi, KK. Distinct progenitor populations in skeletal muscle are bone marrow derived and exhibit different cell fates during vascular regeneration. J Clin Invest, 111(1), 71-9, 2003. PMCID:151835

McKinney-Freeman, SL, Majka, SM, Jackson, KA, Norwood, K, Hirschi, KK, Goodell, MA. Altered phenotype and reduced function of muscle-derived hematopoietic stem cells. Exp Hematol, 31(9), 806-14, 2003. PMCID:1679707

Jackson, KA, Majka, SM, Wulf, GG, Goodell, MA. Stem cells: a minireview. J Cell Biochem Suppl, 38, 1-6, 2002. PMCID:151835

Majka, SM, Kasimos, J, Izzo, L, Izzo, AA. Cryptococcus neoformans pulmonary granuloma formation is associated with matrix metalloproteinase-2 expression. Med Mycol, 40(3), 323-8, 2002. PMCID:151835

Goodell, MA, Jackson, KA, Majka, SM, Mi, T, Wang, H, Pocius, J, Hartley, CJ, Majesky, MW, Entman, ML, Michael, LH, Hirschi, KK. Stem cell plasticity in muscle and bone marrow. Ann N Y Acad Sci, 938, 208-18; discussion 218-20, 2001. PMCID:151835

Jackson, KA, Majka, SM, Wang, H, Pocius, J, Hartley, CJ, Majesky, MW, Entman, ML, Michael, LH, Hirschi, KK, Goodell, MA. Regeneration of ischemic cardiac muscle and vascular endothelium by adult stem cells. J Clin Invest, 107(11), 1395-402, 2001. PMCID:209322