Tal Gordon is a postdoctoral fellow at Tel Aviv University. Her research focuses on tissue regeneration in ascidians, a group of marine invertebrates that represent the closest living relatives of the vertebrates. As regeneration is not universal in the animal kingdom, she hypothesizes that comparing regeneration in species with distinct regenerative capacities will lead to the discovery of key components of regeneration. She intends to use comparative genomics to identify conserved cellular and molecular mechanisms that underlie ascidians’ regeneration.
In her PhD research, Tal established the solitary ascidian Polycarpa mytiligera as a new model system for regenerative and evolutionary studies. A key discovery was that P. mytiligera can regenerate any missing body part, including its entire nervous system, by reactivation of conserved developmental programs. Tal performed transcriptomic profiling of the regenerating nervous system and ascertained that the re-establishment of the nervous system was associated with emergence of Wnt and Hedgehog signaling. She also established collaborations with regeneration and stem cell experts from Italy and California, allowing her to learn new methods and acquire new skills that she used to describe development, evolution, and regeneration in the model system she developed. One of the main questions motivating her research is whether regeneration capabilities lost during evolution can, at least to some extent, be re-acquired. She believes that uncovering the mechanisms underlying regeneration will have a significant impact on society, as it will revolutionize the field of regeneration medicine.