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Adult stem cell fate: a laboratory for statistical physics

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In adult, tissues are maintained and repaired by stem cells, which divide and differentiate to generate more specialized progeny. The mechanisms that control the balance between proliferation and differentiation promise fundamental insights into the origin and design of multi-cellular organisms. However, stem cells are usually difficult to distinguish from their more differentiated progeny, and resolving these mechanisms has proved challenging. Combining the results of inducible genetic labeling studies from a range of tissue types with concepts from population dynamics and statistical physics, we show how scaling behaviour of clone size distributions reveals signatures of stochastic stem cell fate. As well as providing insight into the molecular regulatory mechanisms controlling the maintenance, repair and regeneration of adult tissues, these results provide a platform to explore pathways of dysregulation and tumorigenesis.

This talk is part of the Seminars on Quantitative Biology @ CRUK Cambridge Institute series.

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