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Grosswendt Lab

From Cell States to Function


In both normal embryonic tissues and tumors, cells physically interact and communicate with each other, which influences their gene expression and thus their function. To uncover how these expression programs are defined, we need to consider the multicellular context in which they occur. Single-cell transcriptomics technologies have revealed an enormous variety of ‘cell states’ in which cells normally considered the same type exhibit marked differences in their transcriptional profile. To uncover which cell states influence each other, we are developing strategies to analyze cells within their tissue context and identify the communication events responsible for specific cellular decisions and behaviors. By expanding the potential of single-cell approaches, our team of experimental and computational scientists is thus aiming to decipher the intimate relationship between cell identity and tissue organization.

A key challenge for the future is to understand how cell-cell interactions influence abnormal tissue growth and organization. Some tumors, for instance, appear to hijack normal developmental programs so that they can progress without the need for additional mutations. In fact, tumor cells from cancers such as neuroblastoma and melanoma are similar to cells normally only found during prenatal development. We aim to better understand how these embryonic gene expression profiles are shaped during normal development and why such similar states are observed in tumor cells. We have a particular interest in the biomedically relevant neural crest lineage of the developing embryo, which can give rise to tumors that exhibit substantial cellular heterogeneity and plasticity. Understanding how cells interact with each other and execute these embryonic programs, will be invaluable for improving the detection of tumor cell heterogeneity and developing more effective treatments.

The group is part of the joint 'Single Cell Approaches for Personalized Medicine' Research Focus Area of the Berlin Institute of Health (BIH) at Charité and the Max-Delbrück Center for Molecular Medicine (MDC). Our lab is located at the Berlin Institute of Medical Systems Biology of the MDC, and we closely collaborate with the clinical Department of Pediatric Oncology and Hematology at the Charité.


Grosswendt Lab: Tobias Christaller (left), Philipp Stachel-Braum (centered), Stefanie Grosswendt (right)

Group Leader 

Stefanie Grosswendt

101: Berlin Institute for Medical System Biology
Room: 5.42
+49 30 94061427-1427


PhD students

Tobias Christaller

101: Berlin Institute of Medical Systems Biology
Room: 5.44-49
+49 30 9406-1417

Philipp Stachel-Braum

MDC-NYU Fellowship
101: Berlin Institute of Medical Systems Biology
Room: 5.44-49
+49 30 9406-1417


Master students

Bárbara Zita Peters Couto

101: Berlin Institute of Medical Systems Biology
Room: 5.44-49

+49 30 9406-1595


Lab Manager

Maria Will

101: Berlin Institute of Medical Systems Biology
Room: 5.44-49
+49 30 9406-1595


Team Assistance

Juliane Großkopf
101: Berlin Institute of Medical Systems Biology
Room: 4.01
+49 30 9406-1452





Candidates interested in postdoc or PhD positions please contact Stefanie Grosswendt. Please provide your CV including names of at least two referees, as well as a letter of motivation with your research interest. We especially encourage applications by computational scientists for PhD and Postdoc positions. Computational PhD candidates would be co-supervised by Laleh Haghverdi and can participate in the CompCancer program that our group is associated with.