Dr. Ramkumar Sambasivan
We study the mechanisms regulating vertebrate embryonic development. The stereotypical spatial pattern of tissues and organs in animal body is known as the body plan. Establishing the body plan during embryonic development requires positional information in space and time. The positional information is typically generated by external cues - the signaling pathways, which in turn activate cell-intrinsic cues by inducing specifc set of trascription factors. The transcription factors control cell-type specific gene expression program, thus, conferring identity. Our current focus is on the signaling cues and transcription factor networks providing position-specific identity to, i.e., pattern, mesoderm germ layer. Mesoderm, one of the three primordial cell layers in the embryo, generates a variety of tissues and organs along the head-to-tail body axis. Therefore, understanding mesoderm patterning is fundamental to learn about the mechanisms setting up animal body plan.
Another major interest in our laboratory is to study the development of neural crest cells. The embryonic germ layers have typical differentiation potential; ectoderm generates the nervous system, mesoderm generates muscle, bone, fat etc. and endoderm generates the digestive system. That is the formation of germ layers is concommitant with the restriction of differentiation potential in each layer. Neural crest cells are extaordinary in that they emerge from the ectoderm germ layer, yet they have dual ectodermal and mesodermal differentiation potential. We focus on the mechanisms that underlie this unusual developmental potential of neural crest.
In essence, we study fundamental mechanisms governing the embryonic development in vertebrates.
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