Developmental, Regenerative and Stem Cell Biology
How do cells in different parts of an embryo come to express very different sets of genes? How do different types of developing cells become arranged in functionally significant spatial patterns? How are such developmental processes programmed in the genome? These are a few of the questions that fascinate developmental biologists and that are being answered in detail by the application of the powerful techniques of modern cell and molecular biology.
The Developmental Biology Program at Washington University provides students with opportunities to examine fundamental problems of development in a wide range of model systems. Students and faculty in the Program employ a combination of genetic, cytological, immunological, microsurgical and biochemical approaches in elucidating the molecular mechanisms underlying developmental processes.
The organisms chosen for investigation vary enormously in their complexity. Some students study development in simple organisms such as yeasts or slime molds in the hope that it may be easier to trace the developmental pathway that leads from genotype to a differentiated phenotype with single-celled organisms. Others choose to study development in fruit flies or nematodes because of the relative ease and speed with which the genes and gene products may be identified and studied. In addition, several laboratories study development in larger organisms - such as vertebrates or higher plants - either because of the intellectual challenge presented by these complex developmental systems, the desire to contribute to a solution to human problems (such as cancer or starvation in the Third World), or both.