Adhesion and signaling in development and disease
Ghent UniversityGeneral/Lab Phone: +32 9 33 13 760
General/Lab Fax: :+32 9 221 76 73
Many genes that are linked to the initiation and progression of cancer play fundamental roles in embryonic development. Moreover, cell biological processes disturbed in tumor cells (e.g. proliferation, apoptosis and migration) are also involved in normal processes in the embryo. Our research group uses the model organism Xenopus to investigate such genes and processes during vertebrate development and to extrapolate these findings to human disease, particularly cancer. Our research focuses on Wnt signalling and cadherin-mediated cell adhesion. We aim at studying cells in their natural environment. Hence we are exploiting GFP technology for in vivo labelling and in real time imaging of specific cell populations in the intact embryo. Several transgenic lines have been generated permitting the in vivo detection of Wnt signalling, cell motility/polarity and cell death. These are used to study the function of cadherins, catenins and Wnt signalling in tissue formation and organogenesis. We have a special emphasis on the role of the canonical Wnt pathway in cellular differentiation and organogenesis. We have developed an experimental platform, incorporating bioinformatics, for the identification of novel organ-specific and primary Wnt target genes that are relevant for cancer diagnosis and therapy.