Department of Evolutionary Genetics
Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Deutscher Platz 6
phone: +49 341 3550 - 500
Max Planck Research Group on Single Cell Genomics (Barbara Treutlein)
An understanding of what constitutes the biological basis for modern humans is of fundamental importance for understanding how modern humans came to dominate the biosphere. Single cell genomics is an emerging field providing unprecedented insights into the biology of complex tissues. We use single cell genomics data to reconstruct developmental pathways, lineage hierarchies, and tissue heterogeneity in humans. We integrate single cell measurements with signatures of positive selection and comparisons with great apes to understand the molecular mechanisms that define the modern human condition.
Read more about us here: www.treutleinlab.org
Reconstructing human development using single cell RNAseq
Recent advances in the field of stem cell biology and tissue engineering have made it possible to generate induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells from somatic cells and to differentiate these iPS cells into many cell lineages and tissue types of the human body. We are using these technologies to study differentiation pathways and functional diversity of human cell types in controlled tissue culture environments. In parallel, we use single cell RNAseq to phenotype primary human tissues at multiple developmental stages in order to compare in vitro and in vivo patterns of development. Together, these approaches provide insight into the genetic mechanisms that build and maintain human organs.
Understanding human uniqueness through comparisons with great apes
In order to understand what makes humans unique, it is important to place our observations into an evolutionary context. To this end, we reconstruct great ape development using tissues and iPS cells generated from our closest living relatives including chimpanzee, bonobo, gorilla, and orangutan. We use CRISPR/Cas genome engineering to “ancestralize” human cells to a chimpanzee-like state in order to understand how specific genetic changes lead to innovations in the modern human lineage.
We continue to apply and develop new technologies to understand how individual cells utilize their genome to self-organize into fantastically complex structuress.