Professor Cleary is interested in how complex tissues develop from relatively small populations of stem cells. Nervous system development in the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, provides an excellent model system for studying this process. His lab focuses on how Drosophila neural stem cells, called neuroblasts, which produce the diversity of cell types found in the nervous system. His primary aim is to understand:
- How cell fate decisions are temporally regulated, so that distinct cell types are made at specific times during development
- How mitotic activity is regulated, so that neuroblasts stop and start dividing at the proper time
- How cell fate information is passed from a neuroblast to its progeny and the role of chromatin remodeling factors and other transcription factors in this process
His research team uses the many powerful molecular and genetic techniques available for Drosophila research to address these questions, with the ultimate goal of identifying mechanisms that are conserved in human stem cells.