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Developmental & Stem Cell Biology

Collage of various model systems that our scientists use to study stem cell biology, disease, and development.

We're pushing the boundaries of stem cell biology. We're focused on understanding molecular genetic mechanisms affecting embryonic development, organ formation, tissue homeostasis and regeneration.

The Developmental & Stem Cell Biology program is making an impact on paediatric health-care by translating our research into treatments for associated developmental disorders like childhood cancer, birth defects, and other paediatric diseases. We continue to develop new therapeutic approaches for children and youth through a better grasp of developmental genetics, genomics, and stem cell biology.

Research team

Program head Dr. Brian Ciruna and the scientists that lead DSCB labs and core facilities are supported by over 225 graduate students, postdoctoral fellows, research associates, technicians, and administrative staff. 

You'll find our lab work regularly published in top peer-reviewed medical and scientific journals. Our scientists and trainees receive consistent funding from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), March of Dimes Foundation, Canada Research Chairs, NIH, Genome Canada, Canada Foundation for Innovation, and several other national and international organizations, illustrating the importance and impact of DSCB research.

We always welcome new trainees and staff that are eager to improve the health outcomes of children through cutting-edge biomedical research.

Amy Wong

Scientist, Developmental & Stem Cell Biology

Augusto Zani

Neonatal and Paediatric Surgeon, Division of General and Thoracic Surgery

Binita Kamath

Staff Physician, Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition

Brent Derry

Senior Scientist, Developmental & Stem Cell Biology

Bret Pearson

Senior Scientist, Developmental & Stem Cell Biology

Brian Ciruna

Senior Scientist and Head, Developmental & Stem Cell Biology

Chi Chung Hui

Senior Scientist, Developmental & Stem Cell Biology

Cynthia Guidos

Senior Scientist, Developmental & Stem Cell Biology

Darius Bägli

Paediatric Urologist, Division of Urology

Donna Wall

Section Head, Blood and Marrow Transplant/Cellular Therapy, Division of Haematology/Oncology

Eyal Grunebaum

Co-director Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Program, Division of Immunology and Allergy

Gabrielle Boulianne

Senior Scientist, Developmental and Stem Cell Biology

  • Dr. Herman Yeger 

  • Dr. Ben Alman
  • Dr. Rodrigo Fernandez-Gonzalez 

Program Manager

Dr. Najeeb Siddiqui

Administrative Assistants

  • Iris Biberstein
  • Nahed Mojadiddi
  • Tirhas Okubazghi
  • Alicia Campbell 
  • Maryam Shafiq
  • Jody Hayer

Latest news

Macrophages and mesenchymal cells surrounded by a group of gut stem cells

December 5, 2022

Study uncovers relationship between stem cell development and gut microbes in newborn health

New SickKids research identifies key immune and microbial factors in the gut that influence newborn stem cell development, with implications for the treatment of necrotizing enterocolitis.

Artistic interpretation of  of cancer cell ensheathment on blood vessels.

November 1, 2022

New research rethinks the blood-tumour barrier and identifies novel path to brain cancer treatment

Researchers have uncovered the mechanics of the blood-tumour barrier in a giant step towards treating medulloblastoma.

A child holding a plastic model of a liver

September 22, 2022

Landmark SickKids-led study offers new understanding of outcomes for children and youth with Alagille syndrome

In the largest study of its kind, SickKids researchers have described the natural history of Alagille syndrome, providing a more complete picture of how the liver disease progresses in childhood.

Research themes

Our team works across a number of research themes and labs. See what child health challenges we're tackling at each facility by pushing our understanding of stem cells.

Genetic models of human development and disease

We utilize diverse experimental organisms in their research, including C. elegans, D. melanogaster, zebrafish, planaria, and mice. By developing genetic models of numerous human diseases and cancer, we provide an unmatched platform for interrogating pathogenic mechanisms and performing genetic modifier and therapeutic drug screens.

Mechanisms of tissue patterning and organ development

Developmental signaling pathways – including BMP, Hh, FGF, Notch, TGFb, PCP, and Wnt, – play key roles in pattern formation and organogenesis. We examine the roles of these signaling pathways, as well as other regulatory factors in the development of diverse tissues and organs (e.g. blood, bone, brain, heart, gut, kidney, limb, lung, and skin). 

Molecular regulation of cell fate decision, cell differentiation and cell death

We aim to answer a fundamental question in developmental biology - How do cells adopt their fate? Our team studies molecular switches that regulate a cell's fate, as well as mechanisms that program cells to die. 

Stem cell biology, tissue engineering and regenerative medicine

We study the molecular genetic regulation of stem cell states, including embryonic, induced pluripotent, cancer, and multiple tissue stem cell models. Stem cells offer tremendous potential for repair and/or regeneration of damaged tissues and organs. We unlock how stem cells and organoids can be used in regenerative medicine and tissue engineering, such as spinal cord injury and bladder regeneration.


Browse a list of DSCB labs to learn more about the exciting research taking place in our program.

Core facilities

Centre for Advanced Single Cell Analysis

CASCA provides comprehensive training and expert consultation services to enable researchers to use the Fluidigm Helios Mass Cytometry (CyTOF), Fluidigm Hyperion Imaging Mass Cytometry (IMC) and BD Rhapsody single cell RNA sequencing (scRNA-Seq) platforms.

Flow Cytometry Facility

The FCF provides academic and corporate clients access to state-of-the-art analytical flow cytometers and high-speed cell sorting services. It offers comprehensive training and education as well as expert consultation services to enable users to enhance the scope and quality of their research using the FCF's technology.


Najeeb Siddiqui, Research Program Manager
686 Bay St, Toronto, ON M5G 0A4

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