Molecular and Cellular Basis of Embryonic Development


Head of the Group

Dr. Francesca Spagnoli

31.1: Max Delbrück House (Hochbau)

Room 1061

Tel. 9406-2519



A fundamental question in developmental biology is how a specialized tissue originates from a pluripotent precursor cell in the embryo. The endoderm germ layer gives rise to a number of vital organs in our body, including the lungs, liver, pancreas and intestine. This remarkable diversity derives from a homogenous and multipotent precursor cell population. We are interested in understanding the mechanisms that pattern and establish competence within anterior embryonic endoderm in order to progressively specify the pancreatic organ domain. In addition, we focus on spatio-temporal mechanisms that restrict specification of the pancreas versus neighboring tissues, such as the liver. A complete understanding of these early events will provide insights into the development of these organs. Finally, this information might be crucial for advances in regenerative medicine strategies for the treatment of incurable diseases, such as diabetes.