Quantitative developmental biology
Multicellular life is a study in contrasts between variation and stability. On the one hand, generation of complex spatial patterns during development proceeds with striking precision: the different organs are generally formed at the correct position, at the right time, and with a defined size. On the other hand, regulation should also not be too rigid, since living systems need to flexibly adjust to environmental perturbations and correct errors caused by gene expression noise. Focusing on the zebrafish as a model system, we study the interplay between variation and stability in embryonic and adult tissues. Using single-cell transcriptomics, we aim to understand how cell type diversity in vertebrate animals is generated and regulated, and which compensatory mechanisms are triggered upon perturbation. To this end, we develop novel experimental and computational strategies for spatially-resolved transcriptomics (Junker et al., Cell, 2014) and massively parallel lineage analysis on the single cell level (Spanjaard et al., Nature Biotech, 2018). In ongoing projects, we use these approaches to study phenotypic consequences of developmental variability and as well as the regenerative response upon injury of adult organs.