The self-organisation of cells during the development and maintenance of tissues is one of the most intriguing non-equilibrium processes in nature. How do cells coordinate their behaviour in order to build a complex structure like a living organism? The ability to self-renew places stem cells, which have the remarkable capacity to generate multiple cell types in the developing and adult body, at the apex of theories of tissue maintenance and development. To ensure that the correct composition of differentiated cell types is generated at the right time and place, the fate of stem cells must be precisely regulated. Understanding how stem cells regulate their fate is pivotal for understanding diseases that arise due to dysregulation, such as diabetes and cancer, and for the development of stem-cell-based therapies in regenerative medicine.
Recent advances in single-cell genomics and multi-omics for the first time allow quantifying the transcriptome and epigenome on the level of single cells, thereby providing the exciting opportunity to gain mechanistic insight into the molecular processes underlying stem cell fate behaviour. With our collaborators we combine novel single-cell sequencing experiments with methods from non-equilibrium physics to unveil the mechanisms unveiling stem cell fate behaviour on the molecular level.