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developmental and stem cell biologists

Lab Meeting with the Maurange Lab

Posted by , on 14 December 2023

Where is the lab?

In the middle of the Aix-Marseille University Campus, at the heart of the Calanques National Park, at the border of city. The most beautiful academic spot in France ;)

Lab website: Neural stem cell plasticity – IBDM | Institut de Biologie du Développement de Marseille (univ-amu.fr)

Research summary

We are mainly investigating temporal patterning, and how it links development with regeneration and pediatric cancers. Along the years, we have identified key factors that are sequentially expressed in the embryo and that are important to ensure that developmental programs unfold with the correct timing. We have found that failure to do so can lock tissues into permanent development leading to aggressive tumors. This mechanism likely underlies the emergence of pediatric cancers. We are therefore working on the various mechanisms that regulate temporal transitions during development or that coopt temporal patterning to promote regeneration 💪🏻 or pediatric cancers 😫. Our model organisms are Drosophila and the chick embryo.

Lab roll call

Cédric: As a PI,my everyday work consists in making sure that everybody is happy to come in the lab every morning to make exciting science.

Dylan: I joined Cedric Maurange’s team as postdoc to understand how miRNAs can regulate the cellular composition, hierarchy, and growth of pediatric tumors in an established Drosophila cerebral tumor.

Paul: I am the team bioinformatician, working as a research engineer on deciphering how the cell-of-origin affects the differentiation trajectory of rhabdomyosarcoma.

Lauranne: As a non-permanent engineer, I investigate how MYCN or c-Myc overexpression perturbs cell lineage progression and cerebellum’s organization by using chick embryo as study model.

Shobana: I am a PhD student in the team investigating the dynamic role of microRNAs in neuronal maturation in Drosophila

Emma: I am a PhD student working on the self-organizing principles governing tumor growth and I am using a model of Drosophila brain tumor as well as a numerical model of tumor growth.

Favourite technique, and why?

Cédric: I am very interested in single-cell techniques. It was such an amazing moment when my student came with our first single-cell RNA-seq data, back in 2017, which so clearly showed the cellular heterogeneity of neuroblast tumors and how temporal programs are recapitulated in them. It became clear that this technique would be key to unravelling how cellular heterogeneity and hierarchy are regulated in cancer.

We are now trying to use single-cell multiomics combined with computational simulations to decipher how perturbed developmental/temporal trajectories can be corrected in tumors. I am very grateful to the mathematicians and computer scientists who enable us to make sense of these complex datasets.

Apart from your own research, what are you most excited about in developmental and stem cell biology?

Cédric: In general, the ability to measure/visualise a biological process at the single cell level, but in the context of a tissue, is really exciting. At the moment, I am particularly excited about the possibility of precisely measuring the transcriptional activity of a gene at a given developmental time in a single cell and correlating it with its chromatin environment. Self-organisation at all molecular and cellular scales is also fascinating, particularly challenging and attractive because understanding it will require the collaboration of biologists, mathematicians, physicists and computer scientists.

How do you approach managing your group and all the different tasks required in your job?

Cédric: Science should be about passion and fun. People in the lab should be self-motivated. There are so many mysteries to be solved in biology, it is easy to pick up one that you are particularly interested in and contribute to solve it. It is very fascinating also to see where the quest leads us.

I like to give time to newcomers in the lab so that they get familiar with the model and take ownership of the project. Hopefully, after some time they will also come with new ideas of how to tackle the problem. We have weekly lab meetings and my door is always open (except when I am on Zoom !). I expect people to naturally come to me when they want to discuss. We frequently do one-to-one meetings to more precisely assess the current situation and which points to concentrate on. We also have a growing number of projects that relies on tight interdisciplinary collaborations. The combined expertise is usually a talisman for the unexpected.

What is the best thing about where you work? 

Cédric: The good atmosphere, the multi-disciplinarity of the institute and the multiple possibilities of collaborations with the other institutes on the campus and throughout the city – everything in a fantastic natural environment and sun all year long.

Dylan: Working in the calanques national park, the Luminy campus site is exceptional.

Paul: The good atmosphere and the possibility to work with scientists with really various research fields and interests. Moreover, the lab and the scientific community of Marseille also offer many social events.

Lauranne: We work in a lovely campus surrounded by nature where the positive atmosphere among the 21 IBDM’s teams not only during work hours but also during after- work gatherings adds to the overall pleasure and satisfaction we find in our work environment.

Shobana: In addition to the institute being multi-disciplinary, the friendly and engaging atmosphere makes it easy to approach people for help or discussion, further facilitated by regular seminars and after-work sessions.

Emma: The IBDM, ideally located in the calanques national park, benefits from the very nice weather of Marseille all year long. Moreover, the institute gathers many people from different backgrounds which makes it very interdisciplinary in addition of the nice and friendly atmosphere.

What’s there to do outside of the lab?

Cédric: Walk in the Calanques and discover the various landscape of Provence, enjoy all the activities of the vibrant city that is Marseille.

Paul: The lab is ideally placed in the “Parc National des Calanques”, a sort of nature spot in the periphery of the big city of Marseille, offering the possibility to do some hiking. In the city center, there are some museums, malls etc. and during winter, a beautiful Christmas market on the Vieux-Port.

Shobana: There’s tons to do right outside the lab like hiking, climbing or just walking. Even looking out of the lab window, one can see how beautiful and serene it is being surrounded by the Calanques. A well-equipped sports complex is quite nearby as well, offering training in different sports.

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