Nipam Patel's research program centers on the study of the evolution of development mechanisms with a focus on the genes that regulate segmentation and regionalization of the body plan. His research group is particularly interested in understanding how certain steps in pattern formation that require protein diffusion in Drosophila are accomplished in those insects and crustaceans in which cellularization of the growing embryos would seem to preclude formation of gradients by diffusion. They have also begun to investigate the role of homeotic genes in generating body plan diversification in crustaceans and the role of stem cells in generating pattern during embryogenesis. Another major area of research in the lab centers on investigating the function of the Drosophila segmentation genes during neuronal development and understanding how these genes may have contributed to the evolution of neural complexity.
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The simplicity of CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing will soon make studying the genes of any organism, from the simplest slime mold to the octopus, as easy as it now is to study the genes controlling development in standard lab animals such as nematodes, fruit flies, frogs and mice.