Reading and Writing the Morphogenetic Code

The Allen Discovery Center at Tufts University is a center of fundamental research on anatomical homeostasis. Dr. Levin and his team focus on reading and editing the biophysical control circuits that underlie the Morphogenetic Code. Explore the concepts outlined in our White Paper, and imagine the breakthroughs to come.

The Allen Discovery Center at Tufts University focuses on reading and writing the Morphogenetic Code, which orchestrates how cells communicate to create and repair complex anatomical shapes. Our interdisciplinary effort explores the role that bioelectrical signaling plays in pattern memory and decision-making by somatic cell networks. By understanding these dynamics, the team will create the first quantitative theories of top-down pattern control along with protocols and instrumentation that show how pattern can be rationally modified. Addressing fundamental questions at the intersection of embryogenesis, computation, evolution, and synthetic morphology, this work explores a key frontier within the dark matter of biology: how information processing in cells implements robust control of large-scale patterning.

Led by developmental biologist Michael Levin, the team is comprised of researchers with expertise in biology, computer science, and engineering from Tufts University, Harvard University, Princeton University, University of Chicago, and Tel Aviv University. Together we are using molecular genetics, biophysics, and developmental physiology, as well as techniques from the information sciences and AI to build new tools to exploit endogenous bioelectric pathways. The basic findings will drive diverse applications in regenerative medicine, birth defects, cancer biology, and bioengineering.

Just one of two such centers in the country (the second is at Stanford University), the Allen Discovery Center at Tufts University is generously supported by The Paul G. Allen Frontiers Group, which is committed to funding research at the frontiers of biological sciences.