The Tufts Center for Regenerative and Developmental Biology (TCRDB) is home to basic and translational research using interdisciplinary approaches to make fundamental advances in regeneration, cancer, and birth defects. The TCRDB integrates molecular physiology, cell biology, developmental genetics, biophysics, computer science, and engineering to understand the storage and processing of information in living tissues. The Center's unique emphasis includes: powerful model species from which profound lessons about regeneration can be learned, a focus on understanding and learning to utilize the bioelectrical control systems regulating cell proliferation and differentiation, pursuit of the understanding of the self-assembly of complex 3-dimensional structures using molecular analysis combined with synthetic modeling systems approaches at large scale, and development of novel technologies to manipulate the behavior of adult somatic cells.


The current popularity of stem cell approaches and the long-term almost exclusive focus on biochemical factors have led to a failure to develop important alternative approaches for understanding and controling tissue growth. It has long been known that a number of animal species can regenerate large portions of their bodies as adults (including complex neuromuscular appendages, internal organs, and craniofacial structures); it is imperative to learn how these processes occur in order to be able to induce regeneration of damaged tissues in man. TCRDB efforts focus on understanding how cell behavior is normally orchestrated throughout embryonic development and adulthood, and then learning to control it to achieve the regeneration of tissues and organs as well as normalizing neoplastic growth. A crucial component of this control system is bioelectrical. Indeed, proof-of-principle studies have demonstrated that the regenerative potential of adult tissues can be unlocked by manipulating their biophysical properties. Our work includes development of new techniques for rational modulation of complex patterning and cell behavior by manipulation of endogenous ion flows, voltage gradients, and electric fields. Applications include induction of limb regeneration, spinal cord repair, induction of eye tissues, and early non-invasive detection of cancer by aberrant physiological signatures.
Development Plan

The TCRDB is assembling a critical center of mass in facilities and expertise to apply the most powerful tools of molecular genetics and biophysics to the problem of pattern formation in animal model systems. Through highly-interdisciplinary, systems-biology approaches including molecular and cell biologists, mathematicians, and bioengineers, we will gain profound and generally applicable insights into the control of cell fate and tissue form. These will be transitioned from basic advances in developmental biology into clinical applications. Targeted focus areas include birth defects, cancer biology, regeneration of adult tissues, and neuronal plasticity.

Leadership and Staff

Director: Dr. Michael Levin

Existing expertise: Xenopus, chick, axolotl, planaria; in vivo detection and modulation of bioelectrical events, molecular developmental biology, mathematical modeling; gap junctional communication, motor proteins/cytoskeleton, left-right asymmetry, regeneration.