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LARMOR LECTURE - The statistical physics of stem cell biology: Dicing with fate

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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 regulate the balance between stem cell proliferation and differentiation promise fundamental insights into the origin and design of multi-cellular organisms. However, stem cells are difficult to distinguish from their more differentiated offspring, and resolving these mechanisms has proved challenging. Applied to genetic cell lineage tracing and in vivo live-imaging studies, we discuss how concepts from non-equilibrium statistical physics and population dynamics are providing surprising new insights into common patterns of stem cell regulation in mammalian tissues. As well as undermining some accepted paradigms in stem cell biology, we show how these methods provide a novel platform to explore factors leading to dysregulation and the initiation of diseased states.

This talk is part of the Cambridge Philosophical Society series.

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