Neutral competition during intestinal homeostasis and repair
Dr Joaquín de Navascués is interested in how cells make fate decisions (ie differentiation, division, quiescence or cell death).
These basic cellular operations are essential during growth and morphogenesis in development, but also during adult homeostasis. They occur in a strikingly reproducible manner and this implies that there are quantitative constrains that cells, individually or as populations, must observe. In disease, and in particular in cancer, these constrains are not respected.
He wants to understand how cells integrate cues from their environment to make decisions about their fate, both in development and homeostasis, and how these decisions are coordinated in tissues during the life span of an organism. The way he approaches this question is through an integration of classical genetic approaches, quantitative data analysis (mostly from imaging) and modelling through collaboration with theoreticians. He uses a champion model system for in vivo studies, the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster, focussing on the regulation of adult intestinal stem cells. In particular he wants to elucidate the molecular mechanisms that result in the neutral competition of stem cell lineages, as these are in mammals the cells-of-origin of intestinal cancer.