How do vertebrate organisms generate a wide variety of cell types during development? This immense diversity depends on the activity of gene regulatory networks that define cell identity. Our goal is to define the molecular basis of cell identity, and apply this knowledge to re-engineer cells towards defined fates.

Regional identity in the body: heads or tails?

How do embryos develop the right cell types in the right position? How do visceral motor neurons form in the brainstem versus spinal motor neurons in the spinal cord?

We are investigating the molecular mechanisms that explain these diverse outcomes in the head versus the trunk and how they impact the vertebrate body plan.

Tissue engineering using stem cells

By taking a tissue engineering approach, we use embryonic stem cells to generate defined cell types in vitro, benchmarked against cells generated in vivo.

This allows us to examine which signals direct cell fate decisions during development, and dissect how this is controlled at the molecular level.

The non-coding genome

Vertebrate embryos harbour a vast number of regulatory regions in the genome. We are investigating how these elements influence cellular diversity.

We combine computational biology with experimental manipulations to probe how regulatory elements function in the control of competence and cell identity.

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