Ben Simons


Research summary

Mechanisms of stem cell fate in tissue development, maintenance and disease

How do stem and progenitor cells regulate their fate behaviour to specify and maintain tissues? During development, cell proliferation and differentiation must be coordinated with collective cell movements to specify organs of the correct size, pattern and composition. In the adult, stem cells must regulate a precise balance between proliferation and differentiation to maintain tissue homeostasis.

Expand summary

To address the mechanisms that regulate stem and progenitor cell fate, we combine cell lineage-tracing approaches and single-cell gene expression profiling with concepts and methods from statistical physics and mathematics. Applied to epithelial tissues, we have shown how common principles of self-organisation and emergence provide predictive insights into the cellular mechanisms that regulate tissue development, maintenance and repair.

As well as questioning the nature of stem cell identity and function, these studies emphasize the role of cell fate stochasticity and state flexibility, and establish a quantitative platform to investigate pathways leading to cancer initiation and progression.

Rendered image of cell lineage tracing in the stomach

Cell lineage tracing in the stomach corpus. Genetic lineage tracing using a multicolour confetti reporter system reveals the compartmentalisation of the mouse stomach corpus gland. (Credit: Juergen Fink and Seungmin Han.)

Ben Simons colour portrait

Selected publications

  • Aztekin C et al. (2021) Secreted inhibitors drive the loss of regeneration competence in Xenopus limbs. Development 148 (11): dev199158. DOI: 10.1242/dev.199158.

    June 9, 2021

    Read more
  • Yum MK et al. (2021) Tracing oncogene-driven remodelling of the intestinal stem cell niche. Nature 594(7863):442-447. DOI: 10.1038/s41586-021-03605-0.

    June 2, 2021

    Read more
  • McGinn J et al. (2021) A biomechanical switch regulates the transition towards homeostasis in oesophageal epithelium. Nat Cell Biol 23(5):511-525. DOI: 10.1038/s41556-021-00679-w.

    May 10, 2021

    Read more
  • Nakamura Y et al (2021) Transient suppression of transplanted spermatogonial stem cell differentiation restores fertility in mice. Cell Stem Cell 28(8):1443-1456.e7. DOI: 10.1016/j.stem.2021.03.016.

    April 12, 2021

    Read more
  • Sznurkowska MK et al. (2020) Tracing the cellular basis of islet specification in mouse pancreas. Nat Commun 11(1):5037. DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-18837-3.

    October 7, 2020

    Read more
  • Aragona M et al. (2020) Mechanisms of stretch-mediated skin expansion at single-cell resolution. Nature 584(7820):268-273. DOI: 10.1038/s41586-020-2555-7.

    July 29, 2020

    Read more
  • Hannezo E et al. (2017) A unifying theory of branching morphogenesis. Cell 171: 242–255. DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2017.08.026.

    September 21, 2017

    Read more


Prof Ben Simons PhD FRS FMedSci
Director, Royal Society EP Abraham Professor, Herchel Smith Professor of Physics, Affiliate of the University Department of Applied Mathematics and Theoretical Physics

Research group

  • Dr Tal Agranov

    Research Associate

  • Dr Lemonia Chatzeli

    Research Associate

  • Joel Hochstetter

    PhD Student

  • Dr Qiuyu Lian

    Research Associate

  • Dr Ivan Lobaskin

    Research Associate

  • Dr Sanne van Neerven

    Research Associate

  • Dr Shay Melamed

    Research Associate

  • Dr Laurien van de Weijer

    Research Associate

  • Yanbo Yin

    PhD Student