Juniorprof. Lauren SaundersDevelopmental Genomics

Our group is interested in understanding the interplay between a cell's developmental history, function, and its flexibility to change. We are working to define principles of vertebrate evolution and adaptation by applying high-throughput single-cell genomics, lineage tracing, and developmental genetics in zebrafish and medaka.

We use zebrafish as a model system to explore the limits of cell fate specification. By combining scalable single cell RNA-sequencing methods, lineage tracing, and genetic tools, we aim to study these complex developmental processes at multiple scales (molecular, cellular, organismal). We leverage single-animal barcoding strategies to enable quantification of molecular and cellular phenotypes in whole developing embryos, with the ultimate goal of understanding how animals overcome genetic and environmental perturbations and how this underlies morphological evolution.

Some of our current research questions: 

  • How does the developmental history of a cell shape its future fate? 
  • What is the the limit of developmental plasticity in neural crest-derived cells? 
  • How does genetic diversity contribute to the evolution of morphological traits? 
  • Why do some cell lineages evolve more quickly than others?

Sound interesting? Contact Lauren at lauren.saunders@cos.uni-heidelberg.de

Saunders lab research interests