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Developmental & Stem Cell Biology

Research disciplines


Developmental genetics in model organisms
Taking advantage of model organisms such as C. elegans, D. melanogaster, zebrafish, planaria, and mouse, members of the program are studying common genetic mechanisms that control embryonic development from flat worms to humans.

Molecular regulation of cell fate decision, cell differentiation and cell death
How cells adopt a distinct fate, e.g., terminal differentiation or cell death is a fundamental question in developmental biology. Our members are studying the molecular switches that regulate the specification and determination of cell fate as well as the mechanisms that program cells to undergo apoptosis.

Mechanisms of tissue patterning and organ development
Developmental signaling pathways including BMP, Hh, Notch, PCP, and Wnt, play major roles in pattern formation and organogenesis. Members of the program are investigating the roles of these signaling pathways as well as other regulatory factors in the development of diverse tissues and organs, such as the blood, bone, central nervous system, heart, kidney, limb, lung, and skin.

Animal models for studying human diseases and cancer
Using C. elegans, Drosophila, zebrafish and mouse, our members are developing animal models for studying the molecular pathogenesis of various human diseases and cancer. These models provide an excellent platform for the identification of genetic modifiers, and for drug screening and testing.

Characterization of stem cells and cancer stem cells
Members of the program have identified a number of endogenous stem cells in early embryo and adult skin, and established that tumours contain cancer initiating stem cells. We are studying the mechanisms that determine the developmental potential of these embryonic and adult stem cells as well as induced pluripotent stem cells, and how cells are transformed into cancer initiating cells. Molecular characterization of normal and cancer stem cells should help reveal new directions in developing therapeutic treatment of degenerative diseases and cancer.

Regenerative medicine and tissue engineering
Stem cells hold promise for the repair and/or regeneration of damaged tissues and organs. Members of the program are investigating how stem cells can be used in regenerative medicine and tissue engineering, e.g., spinal cord injury and bladder regeneration.