Cell fate determination in the vertebrate embryo

Year of award: 2019


  • Prof Tatjana Sauka-Spengler

    University of Oxford

Project summary

Understanding how a single cell can give rise to hundreds of different cell types in the human body is a crucial question in biology. My laboratory studies the neural crest (NC), an embryonic cell type that specialises into many derivatives, including nerve cells, bone cells in the skull and pigment cells in our skin. Errors in NC formation are one of the most common causes of birth anomalies. NC formation is controlled by a series of genetic on/off switches, known as gene regulatory networks. 

We will decipher how are these switches are activated in future NC cells, and which switches control the future fate they adopt. Untangling the molecular detail controlling NC cell-fate decisions is crucial if we are to use those cells for therapeutic purposes.

By studying these cell-fate decisions, I will decipher the causes of developmental diseases, which occur when these processes go awry during development.