How are the different types of cells that comprise tissues produced? How are these cells arranged in the correct spatial and temporal patterns to form functional organs? What determines the size and shape of tissues and how is this maintained in the adult?
An understanding of the developmental and stem cell mechanisms underlying these fundamental life processes is essential for tackling a wide range of congenital and acquired diseases. Work at the Crick in this challenging area encompasses a wide variety of model organisms, biological scales and methodologies.
At the cellular scale, we seek to understand how cells become individualized and polarised and how they respond to signals from their neighbours and the extracellular environment.
At larger scales, we investigate how individual cells coordinate their behaviour to build complex tissues that regulate the morphology, physiology and behaviour of the whole organism. Adult organs are maintained and renewed by stem cell populations, and we study how stem cell behaviour is controlled to produce the full repertoire of differentiated cells and to respond to changing environmental demands.
In our work we take advantage of a variety of invertebrate and vertebrate animal species as well as cultured human cells and organoids. Our approaches span disciplines such as genetics, physiology, cell and molecular biology, biochemistry, biophysics, mathematics and computational biology. Recent advances underscore the importance of stem cells in regenerative medicine and as the cells of origin in many cancers. Increasing evidence highlights the impact of development upon adult health and disease.
Our work seeks to understand the principles of development, to use this knowledge to shed light on diseased and damaged tissues and to develop new therapeutic approaches.