Our Research

The Celia Shiau Lab is integrating cutting-edge technologies in live imaging, genetics, genome editing, functional genomics, and cell biology to uncover understanding of innate immune functions in vertebrate development. From single genes to individual cells to whole organism, we are tackling questions regarding vertebrate biology using the zebrafish model system to reveal and connect mechanisms at multiple scales.

Development and function of tissue-resident macrophages

Macrophages are highly dynamic and widespread blood cells that play many important functions in vertebrates. They are the main phagocytes throughout the body, responsible for clearing away dying cells, damaged tissue, and pathogens, to maintain tissue integrity. Macrophages circulate in the bloodstream as monocytes or are stationed in strategic locations of the body as tissue macrophages where their phagocytic roles are critical, such as microglia in the brain, Kupffer cells in the liver, Langerhans cells in the skin, and osteoclasts in the bone. Overall, the developmental process by which macrophages take residence and differentiate into tissue macrophages remains poorly understood. We are currently investigating the transcriptional and cellular regulation underpinning the differentiation of the diverse tissue macrophages.

Cell-cell interactions between macrophages and other systems

The influence of macrophages on the development and homeostasis of various organs can be far-reaching.  Yet the normal roles and mechanisms of macrophages and microglia in the healthy body and brain, respectively, remain far less understood than their functions in disease and injury.  Of particular interest is the function of microglia in the healthy brain. Although not well understood, they have been implicated in shaping brain circuitry and neuronal development as well as in possibly affecting behavioral outcomes. We are also focusing on the critical role of macrophages in preventing inappropriate activation of inflammatory processes that would otherwise damage healthy tissues.  We are addressing fundamental areas of macrophage biology in the context of how macrophages participate in the nervous system as well as other areas of the body prone to inflammation.