Unit on Cell Specification and Differentiation
Farrell Lab @ NICHD

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The lab recently opened in January 2020, and we are actively recruiting lab members. Please apply!


Our research

RNA in situ of zebrafish embryo


Learn more about our research.

Every embryo starts as a single, fertilized cell. It must then build itself into a complex collection of cells specialized for particular functions: light perception, oxygen transport, structural integrity, propagation of the next generation, and many others. How do embryos do this? What journey does each cell take as it transforms from a cell with many potentials into a differentiated cell with a specific identity and function? How are these transformations encoded in and coordinated by the genome?

We combine single-cell genomics, imaging, genetic, and classical embryological approaches to investigate how cell types are specified and then how cells differentiate during vertebrate embryogenesis. We focus on zebrafish embryos as a model system to study these questions, because among vertebrates, they are easy to culture, image, and manipulate both embryologically and genetically.


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