Douglas Blackiston, Ph.D.
Allen Discovery Center at Tufts University
Wyss Institute at Harvard University
The overarching goal of my research program is to understand how developmental pathways coordinate tissue- and organism-level behaviors, and how these pathways can be leveraged in both regenerative medicine and bioengineering contexts. To this end, I study many aspects of developmental biology to learn about the molecular, genetic, and physiological signaling mechanisms driving morphogenesis, and then use these mechanisms to exert control over tissue behaviors, sensory-motor control, and regeneration.
A recent focus of this work has been the creation of engineered living systems - designed by a computer and then built from amphibian stem cells. These "biomachines" have opened a whole new field of research, allowing us to move between simulated (in silico) and biological (in vitro) worlds and answer a number of fundamental questions about biological control systems, cellular communication, tissue plasticity, and self-assembly.
I received my Ph.D. from Georgetown University where I worked under Dr. Martha Weiss and Dr. Elena Silva on brain remodeling in lepidopteran species. There I performed several innovative studies asking the question, can a larva (caterpillar) learn something a moth or butterfly can later remember? The results of those studies were the first to demonstrate trans-metamorphic memory in lepidoptera and piqued my interest in how an organism responds to organization/patterning changes across developmental time-space. This interest has remained central in my career and continues to drive all the projects in the lab.