When development goes wrong: exploring the origins of disease

Many diseases find their origin in the processes occurring during the earliest stages of our life – when we’re still an embryo developing in the womb of our mother. Something goes wrong and derails the normal course of embryonic development. It may stay unnoticed for months or years, but sooner or later the alteration will become apparent, creating, for instance, heart defects, autism, neuromuscular disorders, or tumors. Problems can also occur later in life, with the accidental reactivation of embryonic processes leading to severe illness, including cancer or chronic pain disorders. At the IBDM we explore the origin of developmental disease by studying the normal course of embryonic development, and the genetic or environmental perturbations that alter the mechanisms of a healthy development.