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A consortium studying how do the first lineage decisions of cells take place during early embryogenesis has recently been awarded an NWO ENW XL-grant. Renée van Amerongen and Thijs van Boxtel from the Swammerdam Institute for Life Sciences (SILS-UvA) are part of this consortium led by Hendrik Marks at Radboud University.

The consortium will use this grant to study how one cell, the fertilized egg, can faithfully develop into an organism with many different cell types. This is one of the most fascinating questions in biology. An important step takes place in the early embryo, when it is still a small clump of seemingly equal cells. A diverse team of top researchers will use detailed molecular analyses to investigate when and how these individual cells decide their future. This will provide fundamental new insight into how cells make decisions. It will also help with developing innovative strategies in cancer and stem cell research, and improve our understanding of developmental defects.

The role of developmental signalling pathways in lineage decisions

At SILS-UvA, Renée van Amerongen and Thijs van Boxtel will focus on the role of developmental signalling pathways (mainly WNT, BMP and Nodal) in this process. They will dissect how individual cells integrate different signals and how the response to these biochemical signalling cues either depends on, or changes, the existing cellular chromatin state.

Consortium partners

Next to UvA and Radboud University, the Dutch Cancer Institute (NKI) and Hubrecht Institute are part of the consortium as well.