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Neural Crest

Neural crest cells are a transient population of cells in the developing embryo. They emerge from the developing central nervous system tissue milieu. However, their uniqueness lies in their multipotential and migratory nature. 

The Neural Crest cells migrate and differentiate to contribute to tissues as diverse as melanocytes, craniofacial cartilage, adrenal medullary cells, heart valves, peripheral nervous system and many more. Thus they emulate the stem cells in an embryonic environment. 

While delaminating from the developing neural tube the Neural Crest cells undergo a transition from an epithelial to mesenchymal nature. The genes required for such a behavioural change match closely the genes that play important roles in the metastatic migration of cancer cells. 

We are interested in the epigenetic regulatory molecules such as chromatin modifiers and regulatory RNA that determine the fate of Neural Crest cells in the embryo. 

We are using a combination of molecular genetics and small molecules to address this problem.