The body of all complex animals consists of hundreds of cell types with unique morphologies and cellular functions. The identities of the cell types are defined by the sets of genes they express, i.e. their gene expression programs. Precise control of gene expression programs is essential for cell identity and differentiation. Many genetic diseases - e.g. cancer - arise due to a malignant alteration of cell specifying gene expression programs.
The Hnisz lab uses experimental and computational technologies to study gene control in development and cancer. We identify mechanisms that activate and repress genes that specify cell identity. We explore regulatory pathways that orchestrate gene expression programs, and investigate how they enable switches in cell-heritable differentiation programs. We illuminate the contribution of aberrant gene control programs to malignant phenotypes, and use these insights to create therapeutic concepts for the next generation of gene control medicines.