Yuanzhen ZHU

Research Interests

My pronouns are he/him

I am particularly interested in the origin and evolution of cell types and organs, especially the brain, which is the most complicated organ to have evolved. I have studied the evolution and development of several insect species to glimpse the evolution of eusociality in ants and metamorphosis in the domestic silk moth. My current aim is to understand how whole genome duplication (WGD) boosts the evolution and diversity of cell types from the nervous system. It has been shown that two WGDs occurred in the base of vertebrates, with conserved and sophisticated brain structure and cell type diversity compared to outgroup species, giving us a great case to investigate the phenotypes (expression, gene regulatory network, etc.) evolution of neurons and glial cells under WGD. Although the natural selection and neutral theory define the framework for understanding the processes and mechanisms underlying evolutionary changes, phenotypes at the cellular level, including gene expression and epigenetic pattern, etc., are not well integrated. With further comparative single-cell analyses among different species, I want to discover the cellular evolutionary patterns and establish analytical and theoretical models to contribute to the framework of evolutionary cell biology in the future.

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