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Research

Why foundational research?

Exploring the fundamental processes of biology is essential in our quest to understand the secrets of life.

How can the study of research organisms shed light on human health and disease?

Human conditions like cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, cardiac disease, and birth defects may appear unrelated, yet they all stem from disruptions in fundamental cellular and molecular processes.

Stowers Institute research focuses on foundational research in organisms, tissues, and cells to understand the many mechanisms underlying human health and disease.

Using diverse research organisms like flatworms, zebrafish, and sea anemones, scientists at Stowers are investigating how genomes have both evolved and been conserved throughout the history of life on Earth. Detailed analysis uncovers new insights underlying processes like cell division, cell differentiation, sensory perception, energy storage, memory formation, and regeneration.

Our goal: The creative, innovative exploration of every aspect that makes life possible will ultimately translate to our understanding and ability to develop new strategies to prevent and treat illness and disease.

See the impact of our science

Our unique funding model allows the freedom to explore the unexpected.

Transformational science requires the transformation of science. Through the unparalleled generosity and vision of our founders, Jim and Virginia Stowers, we have a scientific ecosystem that encourages discovery and innovation. Jim, founder of American Century Investments, and Virginia followed their initial generous investment by establishing a funding model that provides ongoing support of our research through the annual dividends from American Century Investments. Because of this structure, Stowers scientists are uniquely positioned to explore with freedom, and allowed the ability to follow biological avenues that lead to novel discoveries and to share their findings for the betterment of humanity.

Research Areas

Molecular and Cell Biology

All forms of life are composed of cells. From a single-celled bacterium to a Giant Sequoia, from a worm to a human. Biology research at the molecular and cellular level is akin to the study of chemistry at the atomic level. The processes carried out by “molecules” within and between cells, the fundamental building blocks of every organism, are as diverse as the variability of life on our planet. The common yet vastly different functions performed by cells is an area primed for novel discoveries on decoding life’s secrets at the microscopic level. At the Stowers Institute, many of our scientists are dedicated to understanding the molecular and biochemical interactions governing our cells.

Zebrafish cells.

Development and Regeneration

Developmental biology research focuses on the means by which all living things develop or grow into their mature forms. We seek to understand every aspect of normal development to identify how and where development can be disrupted. In animals, early development is intricately related to regeneration, the restoration of cells, tissues, organs, or body parts. We examine how cells can differentiate into any of the many types of cells found in an adult organism, leading to a better understanding of development and growth and what goes wrong in disease

Genetics and Genomics

Genetics, the study of particular stretches of DNA, is at its very foundation what and who we are. At the Stowers Institute, our scientists are profoundly focused on decoding genes that control specific functions required by all organisms, and understanding the oftentimes unexpectedly harmful impacts caused by mutations in these genes. The regulation of gene expression, or how gene activity is turned on and off at specific times and places, is another major area of study. Genomics, the study of many or all our genes together, is critical for underpinning the structure and function of the genome, how different genes are expressed, and how genes interact in health and disease.

Neuroscience

The human brain, composed of 86 billion neurons involved in nearly one quadrillion synapses or signals, orchestrates everything we do. The study of neuroscience encompasses not only the brain but also our sensory systems and how neurons and glia communicate information between the brain, spinal cord, and nervous systems that influence behavior and memory. Stowers’ scientists are actively pursuing the bases underlying neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, in addition to addressing the dual nature of amyloids in disease and in the creation of memory.

Labs working in this area:

Systems Biology

Systems biology is the comprehensive study of how genes, cells, and tissues interact through complex signaling mechanisms. Our scientists seek to understand the bases for a vast array of biological systems and to uncover how these circuitries can go awry in human disease. Techniques used at the Stowers Institute include computational, modeling, and AI approaches to investigate these complex mechanisms.

Nematostella

Evolutionary Biology

From the appearance of the very first cell, every form of life on our planet shares a common ancestor: DNA. How, over the course of billions of years, did such diversity arise? And, what can we learn from our more evolutionary distant relatives? At the Stowers Institute, our scientists examine fundamental processes over a wide range of research organisms on different branches on the evolutionary tree of life to understand the similarities and differences in the mechanisms governing human health and disease.

Chameleon on branch

What do fish and snails have to do with human health?

To understand the mysteries of biology, we look to species beyond the focus of typical biomedical research. By interrogating the unknown, we may ultimately understand the origins of some of the most complex and currently incurable diseases like cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s.

Research Organisms at Stowers

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