The Sauka-Spengler group is interested in understanding the principles that govern how cell fate is determined, using the vertebrate neural crest (NC) as an experimental paradigm.
The neural crest are a group of cells that originate during embryonic development close to the developing nervous system, then segregating and migrating extensively into distant parts of the embryo. Unlike other multipotent embryonic populations, it contributes to a plethora of derivatives (peripheral and enteric neurons and glia, melanocytes, craniofacial cartilage and bone, smooth muscle etc.) to functionally unrelated tissues and organs.
Over the last few years Dr Sauka-Spengler and her group have started unravelling the cis-regulatory interactions comprising the gene regulatory networks underpinning NC development in three vertebrate models: chicken, zebrafish and lamprey. This grant will allow the group to continue using cutting-edge technology in genomics and imaging to further this research.
“With the development of new technologies in biomedicine over the last decade, we are now in a position to address fundamental, long-standing questions in developmental biology.” said Dr Sauka-Spengler, “With this programme of work, I hope to deepen our understanding of the principles by which changes in the transcriptional and epigenetic landscape control vertebrate development.”