Synthetic Development - Engineering of Self-Patterning

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Synthetic genetic circuits could enable cells to form developmental patterns using signaling pathways for intercellular communication and regulatory genes to control other cellular components. However, it remains unclear what types of circuit architectures or components are sufficient to enable such pattern-forming capabilities. Our goal is to create genetic circuits that can create patterns such as those shown here, which are critical during development of tissues.

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The development of new tissues and regeneration of damaged tissues require the long-range spatial organization, or ‘patterning’, of differentiated cells. Secreted diffusible proteins called morphogens, which convey spatial information by establishing concentration gradients, carry out this long-range organization. Even though morphogen-based patterning lies at the crux of development, much remains unknown about how morphogen gradients are formed and regulated in the extracellular space. We are addressing this important problem by applying the tools of synthetic biology to recreate gradients in tissue culture and to understand how they are controlled to pattern tissues.

University: 

Caltech

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