The core question of developmental biology is how spatial organization of the body plan is achieved during embryogenesis such that a fertilized egg cell will give rise to a highly structured organism. Due to the identification and characterization of genes in several organisms and extensive progress in gene technology, many developmental processes are now being understood at the molecular level. One of the more important lessons from these studies is that homologous genes have related functions in invertebrates such as fruit flies and vertebrates such as the mouse. This insight implies that developmental processes will probably be best understood by integrating findings from several different organisms, each of which provides its own particular experimental advantages.
Scientists in the Developmental Genetics Program study a number of diverse developmental questions including: Establishment of the body axis by morphogen gradients, Regionalization of the embryonic xbrain into different structural and functional regions, Neural stem cell allocation and differentiation, Axon navigation and branching, Development of the embryonic eye, Heart development and analysis of heart function, Germ line development. Each research program integrates a genetic approach with the study of a variety of cellular processes like cell determination, cell lineage, and cell to cell signaling. A broad-organismal approach is provided through the use of a variety of experimental organisms, including Drosophila, chicken, mouse, rat and zebrafish.
Dolly Chan, Theresa Walton