Developmental and Stem Cell Biology

How do cells acquire their identity? How are organs formed? Little is known about the mechanisms by which animals, including human beings, are "built". But it is vital to understand them because they are largely responsible for the way in which tissues and organs are maintained in adult individuals. To shed light on such phenomena in embryos and adults, the department investigates the workings of these mechanisms, from molecules to molecular machinery, from cells to tissues and from organs to organisms.


Embryos are formed from cells known as embryonic stem cells, which start out with the potential to develop into any cell type. As an embryo develops, these stem cells produce functionally distinct cell lineages that group together to form organs. Organs themselves contain stem cells that are more specialized and are involved in tissue maintenance and repair in adults. The department's research explores how embryonic cells adopt specific identities, how they assemble and contribute to the formation of tissues and organs, and how they give rise to adult stem cells. It also seeks to shed light on adult stem cell properties.

An impact in all fields of health

Monitoring and investigating the behavior of stem cells in embryos and adults requires the use of various model organisms and cutting-edge techniques in (epi)genomics, imaging, genome engineering, pathophysiology and biophysics.

The department's scientists analyze the origins of blood stem cells, the formation and regeneration of skeletal muscles, and the properties of embryonic stem cells cultured in vitro.

For instance, one recent study focused on the formation and regeneration of esophagus muscle tissue and how it develops during the aging process; another sought to identify the genes responsible for disorders of sex development in humans; and a third, together with Necker Hospital, looked at heart formation in mice and congenital heart defects in humans.

The department's research is carried out in close cooperation with other Institut Pasteur departments, especially Immunology and Neuroscience.


Learn More

Laure Bally-Cuif - Institut Pasteur

Laure Bally-Cuif, Director of the Department of Developmental and Stem Cell Biology

Developmental biology aims to identity the rules that govern development in embryos and adults, which are often common to all living beings. Understanding how tissues are formed also means understanding how they regenerate and repair themselves. This knowledge paves the way for tissue reconstruction




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