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Research Fellows Directory

Eugenia Piddini

Dr Eugenia Piddini

Research Fellow


University of Cambridge

Research summary

For tissues in our body to function optimally, the cells that they are made of must

also perform optimally. To achieve this a mechanism has evolved, called ‘cell

competition’, which leads to the elimination of cells that perform sub-optimally. When tissues are first formed, as cells grow and divide, they compare their fitness with neighbour cells and those cells that are sensed as weaker die and are eliminated. My lab is interested in

understanding how cell competition takes place and its relevance

both in healthy and in disease conditions, such as cancer. For our studies, we use

the fruit fly Drosophila and mammalian cells in culture. Our work is currently

focussing on two fronts.

Firstly, though cell competition happens during embryogenesis, it is unclear

to what extent cells also compete in adult tissues. If competition took place in adult tissues, it could improve the efficiency of cellular turnover, by ensuring that the cells that begin to

fail are the ones that are replaced first. Using the adult fly gut as a model system we have recently shown that competition does indeed take place in adult tissue and have identified some of the genes involved.

Secondly, we wish to understand the role of cell competition during cancer

formation. It has been suggested that competition could have both a tumour

promoting and a tumour suppressive role. Cancer cells could initiate competition

with neighbouring cells, kill them and clear space that they could fill with more

tumour cells. However it has also been suggested that normal cells could identify early cancer cells as aberrant and eliminate them before they expand into a tumour. There are

indications that both phenomena are happening, with one prevaling over the other

depending on the context. My lab is is studying these phenomena in tissue culture and also in Drosophila, where we can induce by genetic manipulation intestinal adenomas.

Interests and expertise (Subject groups)

Grants awarded

The mechanisms of cell competition and its relevance to tissue physiology

Scheme: University Research Fellowship

Dates: Oct 2015 - Apr 2017

Value: £395,501.93

Mechanism and function of cell competition in development and tissue homeostasis

Scheme: University Research Fellowship

Dates: Oct 2010 - Sep 2015

Value: £549,193.36

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