MoGen researchers studying Genetic Models of Development and Disease aim to understand how the instructions required to produce a complex multicellular organism are encoded in the genome, how they are interpreted during embryonic development, and how errors in their implementation underlie diverse pathologies, including many types of cancer. How a single cell, the fertilized egg, develops into an individual that may comprise trillions of cells has fascinated observers since its discovery. Over the past 40 years, phenomenal advances with genetic analysis and molecular biology have revealed many of the mechanisms that lay out plans of the developing body, those that specify the identities of different cell types, and those that pattern tissues and organs throughout the body. One of the striking lessons to emerge from such studies is that a small number of well conserved regulatory pathways act repeatedly during development, in different contexts, and in organisms ranging from simple invertebrates to humans, to control decisions about cell fate, tissue growth, pattern formation, and morphogenesis. Consequently, discoveries about the workings of these pathways in simple, highly tractable organisms can readily be applied to aid the investigation of development and genetic disease in more complex ones, including humans.

Researchers in MoGen take advantage of diverse model organisms, including worms, fruit flies, zebrafish, and mice, as well as cell and organ cultures to investigate questions spanning the fields of developmental biology, stem cell biology, neurobiology, gene regulation, and epigenetics. We harness powerful techniques including forward and reverse genetic analysis, phenotypic screening, gene cloning, transgenesis, embryological manipulation, light and electron microscopy, genome editing, and genome sequencing, as well as transcriptome and proteomic analysis to address some of the most fundamental questions in biology. Our diverse labs have made seminal discoveries that shape our understanding of cell fate decisions in embryo, signaling between tissues, stem cells and their properties, nervous system patterning and function, organogenesis, morphogenesis, transcriptional and post-transcriptional regulation, and epigenetic inheritance at the level of RNA and chromatin. Our approach is embodied by a collaborative and interdisciplinary spirit, and benefits from extensive interactions with the other MoGen Research fields.  Our work is at the forefront of science both in Canada and internationally.

For a closer look at MoGen research in Genetic Models of Disease and Development, please read the full field spotlight.