Understanding Polarity

The ‘Understanding Polarity’ temporary tattoo was designed for the St Johnston lab group to represent their research as part of the Tattoo my Science project.

Understanding Polarity

An epithelium is a sheet of cells forming the outer layer of a body’s surface and lining hollow structures like the digestive tract.

Epithelial cells are well organised and polarised. By studying how fruit fly gut epithelia develop, we can learn how defects in polarity contribute to diseases such as cancer in humans.

Design by Zhenyi Wang

St Johnston Lab Group

Polarising epithelial cells and body axes

How do cells know ‘up’ from ‘down’? Most cells in the body perform different functions at opposite sides of the cell. This cell polarity is essential in development, for example: in determining the head-to-tail axis of many animals, for cell migration and for asymmetric stem-cell divisions. Furthermore, loss of polarity is a hallmark of tumour cells and is thought to contribute to tissue invasion and metastasis.

Our work focuses on epithelia, the sheets of polarised cells that form barriers between compartments and make up most of our organs and tissues. We study the factors that mark different sides of epithelial cells and how these organise the internal cell architecture, using the Drosophila intestine and the follicle cell epithelium as models.

Daniel St Johnston colour portrait

Meet Daniel St Johnston

In this video Daniel St Johnston (Gurdon Institute Senior Group Leader) describes his work on cell polarity and epithelia.

An illustration showing three friends chatting about a DNA tattoo the the person in the middle has

Share your tattoo!

Remember if you post a photo of your tattoo on Instagram, tag us @gurdoninstitute