Signaling, primary cilium, stem cell, Hedgehog, Wnt
In the process of development, a single egg cell develops into a complex organism. Understanding how that first cell generates such astonishing complexity is one of biology’s great tasks. Not only is this task fundamental to our understanding of ourselves, but it is also critical to understanding the causes of birth defects and other diseases. Many of the mechanisms underlying development depend on intercellular communication, the ability of cells to send and receive information. Secreted signaling proteins can communicate many different types of information, from what type of cell a cell should become to whether a cell should live or die. We are studying the mechanisms by which a cellular organelle, the primary cilium, receives and interprets these signals during development. We are also studying how mistakes in these signals contribute to diseases such as cancer.