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Ben Simons

2017 SimonsBen Simons PhD, Herchel Smith Professor of Physics at the Cavendish Laboratory in Cambridge, Royal Society EP Abraham Research Professor, Associate Group Leader at the Gurdon Institute.

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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?

In development, tissue precursors must coordinate proliferation and differentiation 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 achieve homeostasis.

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

As well as questioning stem cell identity and the mechanisms that underpin cell fate stochasticity and state flexibility, these studies establish a quantitative platform to investigate pathways leading to tumour initiation and progression.

Selected publications:

• Kitadate Y et al. (2019) Competition for mitogens regulates spermatogenic stem cell homeostasis in an open niche. Cell Stem Cell 14, 1-14. doi: 10.1016/j.stem.2018.11.013

• Sznurkowska MK et al. (2018) Defining lineage potential and fate behavior of precursors during pancreas development. Dev Cell 46, 360-375. doi:10.1016/j.devcel.2018.06.028

• Hannezo, E et al. (2017) A unifying theory of branching morphogenesis. Cell 171, 242-255. doi: 10.1016/j.cell.2017.08.026

• Lan X et al. (2017) Cell fate mapping of human glioblastoma reveals an invariant stem cell hierarchy pre- and post-treatment. Nature 549, 227-232. doi:10.1038/nature23666

• Scheele CLGJ et al. (2017) Identity and dynamics of mammary stem cells during branching morphogenesis. Nature 542, 313-317. doi:10.1038/nature21046

• Sánchez-Danés A et al. (2016) Defining the clonal dynamics leading to tumor initiation. Nature 536, 298-303. doi:10.1038/nature19069

Simons Group 2017

Video: Meet Ben Simons


Lemonia Chatzeli • Jake Cornwall Scoones • Adrien Hallou • Seungmin Han • Daniel Kunz