The human body is composed of hundreds of different cell types, all of which are derived from a single fertilized oocyte. The Simoes-Costa Lab is interested in decoding the molecular programs that control cell differentiation during embryonic development. To study this process, we scrutinize the formation and diversification of a stem cell population called the neural crest. Neural crest cells are specified at the edges of the central nervous system, from where they emerge via epithelial to mesenchymal transition, migrate extensively throughout the embryonic body, and differentiate into diverse cell types.
Our research group combines state of the art developmental biology techniques with systems-level approaches, such as transcriptomics and epigenomic analysis, to characterize novel regulatory circuits controlling neural crest differentiation in amniote model systems (chick, mouse, and stem cells). We focus on how transcription factors and signaling systems are organized into regulatory circuits that drive multipotent progenitors into adopting a specific cell fate. Ultimately, our goal is to guide differentiation of stem cells into distinct cell types for the purpose of repair and regeneration, in a way that recapitulates how this process occurs in vivo.
Awards and Honors
- Basil O'Connor Starter Scholar Award (2020) March of Dimes
- Pathway to Independence Award (K99/R00) (2019) National Institutes of Health
- Nancy and Peter Meinig Family Investigator in the Life Sciences (2016) Cornell University
- Pew Latin American Fellow in Biomedical Sciences (2010) The Pew Charitable Trusts
- Simoes-Costa, M., & Bronner, M. (2016). Reprogramming avian neural crest axial identity and cell fate. Science. 352:1570-3.
- Simoes-Costa, M., & , (2015). Establishing neural crest identity: a gene regulatory recipe. Development: For advances in developmental biology and stem cells. 142:242-57.
- Simoes-Costa, M., Stone, M., & Bronner, M. E. (2015). Wnt effector Axud1 cooperates with neural plate border genes to drive neural crest specification. Developmental Cell. 34:544-54.
- Simoes-Costa, M., Tan-Cabugao, J., Antoshechkin, I., Sauka-Spengler, T., & Marianne, B. E. (2014). Transcriptome analysis reveals novel players in the gene regulatory network controlling cranial neural crest development. Genome Research. 24:281-90.
- Simoes-Costa, M., & Bronner, M. E. (2013). Insights into neural crest development and evolution from genomic analysis. Genome Research. 23:1069-80.
- Simoes-Costa, M., McKeown, S. J., Tan-Cabugao, J., Sauka-Spengler, T., & Bronner, M. (2012). Dynamic and differential regulation of stem cell factor FoxD3 in the neural crest is encrypted in the genome. PLOS Genetics. 8:e1003142.