Miguel-Aliaga lab Organ Development and Physiology Laboratory

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We seek to understand how organs sense and react to their environment to maintain or change our physiology.

Animals do not stop developing when they reach adulthood; their internal organs continue to grow and shrink in response to what the animal is experiencing.

The intestinal tract is a striking example of how a fully developed organ can change. Certain diets, microbes or internal states can cause it to grow or shrink. Our lab is interested in understanding this plasticity across scales: How does the gut know it needs to change? What does it sense? How do all its different cells coordinate and communicate to achieve organ-level changes? And how does it communicate with the brain and other organs to impact the physiology of the body as a whole?

We are currently excited by our finding that gut shape and function differ between the sexes, and experience further changes in females that reproduce. We are using both experimental and computational approaches in fruit fly, mouse and human models to understand the reasons for these sex and reproductive differences. 

We hope to shed light on the nature of gut feelings and reactions, and how problems in the dialogue between organs may contribute to gastrointestinal or metabolic disease.