Tracking cell fate decisions in single cells

Dr. Michael Elowitz and Dr. Long Cai will develop a platform through which cells can self-record their lineage and molecular event histories directly into their own DNA as they create new tissues, particularly in the brain. This research will help to address one of the most fascinating questions in biology – how individual cells in a developing embryo diversify into many distinct cell types, each playing its unique role in the organism.

Affiliated Investigators

Long Cai, Ph.D.

California Institute of Technology

The main focus of the Cai group is single cell systems biology.  They use super-resolution and live cell microscopy to study gene regulatory networks in cells and organisms.

They have recently demonstrated a technique that can multiplex detection of 100 mRNAs in single cells of multi-cellular organisms to study developmental processes.  Long Cai received his PhD at Harvard with Sunney Xie and received his postdoctoral training with Michael Elowitz.     

Michael Elowitz, Ph.D.

California Institute of Technology

Michael Elowitz is an Investigator at Howard Hughes Medical Institute, and a Professor of Biology, Bioengineering, and Applied Physics at California Institute of Technology
Pasadena, California.  Dr. Elowitz's laboratory uses synthetic biology approaches, quantitative time-lapse movies, and mathematical modeling, to understand, and re-engineer, the behavior and development of individual cells. In 2000, he developed the Repressilator, an artificial genetic clock in E. coli that was one of the first synthetic genetic circuits, helping to initiate the field of synthetic biology. He also showed how to detect stochasticity, or 'noise', in the process of gene expression, and has gone on to demonstrate the functional role noise plays in cellular regulation, differentiation, and evolution. Most recently, Dr. Elowitz has focused on bringing synthetic biology and quantitative single-cell approaches to developmental systems.  Dr. Elowitz received his PhD in Physics from Princeton University with Stanislas Leibler, and did postdoctoral research at Rockefeller University with Arnold J. Levine.