Systems biology of development

How do extracellular signaling molecules pattern developing embryos? We combine genetic, biophysical, and theoretical approaches to address this question during vertebrate development.

Biophysics of signal dispersal: Multiple signaling pathways need to be precisely coordinated in space and time to pattern the body plan. How are the appropriate distributions of signaling molecules achieved, such that cells receive the right amount of signal at the right time?

Self-organization of patterning: Systems of signals that diffuse and react with each other (reaction-diffusion systems) have been postulated to underlie complex self-organizing patterns. How do signaling systems concertedly coordinate proper patterning?

Scale-invariant patterning: Individuals of the same species can vary considerably in size, but the proportions of their body plans are often constant. How is the spatial range of signaling molecules regulated to establish the correct tissue proportions in differently sized embryos?

Aberrant signaling in disease: Signaling pathways that control embryogenesis are frequently deregulated in human cancers. How do acquired mutations in signaling pathway components lead to disease onset, and how can treatment therapies be tailored to patients?

My group studies how the interplay between signaling molecules controls development and disease. We combine genetic, biophysical, and theoretical approaches to address these questions in vertebrate model systems (zebrafish, mouse embryonic stem cells, and patient-derived cancer cells).