Tony Tsai, M.D., Ph.D.


Tony Tsai, M.D., Ph.D.
Assistant Professor
Developmental Biology
Washington University in St. Louis
660 S. Euclid Ave.
Campus Box 8103
City, State, ZIP
St. Louis, MO 63110
[email protected]
Research field
Award year


The Tsai lab will investigate how cells in an embryo monitor local environments and neighboring cell types to make decisions about their developmental fate. Developmental processes unfurl with remarkable reproducibility and precision, such that embryos of the same species will have tissues of the same size, composition, and patterns. In contrast, cells that are grown into “organoids” in a culture dish display much more variability. As a postdoctoral fellow, I found that in a developing zebrafish, cells in the spinal cord use an “adhesion code” to physically associate with cells of the same type to form precise patterns. Recently, I discovered that cells in the wrong place can switch their type to match their neighbors to further correct pattern errors. Now, using techniques in molecular genetics, in vivo live imaging, and computational analysis, I will study a family of adhesive proteins called cadherins, which anchor cells to neighboring cells, and dissect how they relay information about the environment to modulate cell identity. Using our cutting-edge techniques to perturb tissue-scale forces, my lab will also determine how cells integrate mechanical signals when making fate choices. By revealing how cells sense their adhesion and mechanical environments to make more accurate developmental decisions, my work could lead to interventions for developmental disorders or better strategies to engineer artificial tissues.

Search Pew Scholars