​The goal of undergraduate student Krissie Tellez's research is to better understand how specific cell types arise during early development of embryos, especially the in vivo factors that influence cell differentiation and plasticity.​

Through transplantation experiments with a model species of frog, Tellez showed that prospective neural cells are responsive to location and time-specific muscle-inducing signals. This provided new insights into the ability of the embryo to regulate cell plasticity during development.

Cells from the frontal neural region lose their ability to change their fate after the earliest phases of embryonic development. But cells in other regions are able to alter their development and form muscle fibers, much later. Put another way, anterior neural ectoderm cells lose their plasticity earlier during development than posterior neural ectoderm cells.

Tellez is now studying developmental biology at Stanford University. Her research is funded by the Beckman Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.