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Sainsbury Laboratory

Sebastián Moreno Ramirez working with Arabidopsis thaliana plants

Humans of SLCU

Taking inspiration from Humans of New York, each week we will feature people from our SLCU community.


Meet Sebastián…

Dr Sebastián Moreno Ramirez  | Research Associate

Twitter @seba_moreno_r


Sebastián is a plant development biologist studying stem cells, in particular the shoot apical meristem dynamic (SAM) and the different cell-fate decisions behind SAM homeostasis. He joined SLCU in August 2021 and works across three research groups – Jönsson, Locke and Meyerowitz. Sebastian is also an Assistant Features Editor for Plant Physiology


Prior to SLCU

I completed my PhD at the Catholic University of Chile, Santiago. My PhD supervisor was Rodrigo Gutierrez. The main goal of my PhD was to understand how plants sense and respond to nitrate. Specifically, we aimed to understand how environmental sources of nitrate regulate shoot growth during early developmental stages. In addition, by using  top-down approaches, we were able to capture the metabolic-transcriptomic transition from the use of internal to external nitrogen sources.


What is your overarching research question?

My main research question is to understand how plants are able to achieve different cell fate decisions from an undifferentiated state and how hormones could modulate these different cell fate decisions. The various cell types observed in the shoot apical meristem and their specific pattern-forming processes make SAM a suitable tissue for studying the differentiation process in plants.

Image: Gene expression in the shoot apical meristem is highly patterned. In the figure we can observe two different fluorescent marker genes exhibiting very specific expression patterns in the SAM.



What projects are your currently working on?

I'm currently utilising omics approaches to identified the different cell types present in the SAM. While we already know some cell types domain and their specific roles in SAM homeostasis, we believe that there are still uncharacterised cell types that have not been described yet. By employing this approach, we will be able to decode the regulatory network underlying these different cell types and infer the mechanism behind the various cell fates in this tissue. Additionally, I am investigating how  hormones can modulates these cell fates decisions and cell cycle dynamic in the SAM.


What is your favourite tool of the trade (eg lab equipment)?

LSM700 - our old reliable buddy.  


If you weren’t a plant scientist, what job do you think you would do?

I would probably have liked to try like something unrelated to biological science, such us a field more closely related to social sciences, like sociology or anthropology.


What is your favourite scientific discovery of all time?

One of the discoveries that I like the most is when Laskey, Reeves and Gurdon discovered in the 70's that nuclei have the genetic information to direct normal development and differentiation after transplantation. Basically, they observed that differentiated cells contains all the information to triggers different cell fate trajectories but this information is not normally expressed in the original tissue. This discovery shapes what we are currently trying to understand: why cells, despite having the same information, can become completely different cell types and have different cell fates.


What are your hobbies/interests/thing you enjoy outside of work?

I mainly enjoy reading books, specially novels and short stories. I also like to play guitar and play football. The last year I've been climbing a lot with some other friends from SLCU and I'm really enjoying this new sport.


Do you have a favourite movie/book/song? What is it that makes it special?

It's hard to pick just one, but I think Cinema Paradiso from Giuseppe Tornatore is probably one of my favourites. It's a beautiful story that enchants me every time that I watch it. The last scene is magnificent. As for books, anything from Julio Cortazar, an Argentinian genius that is worth exploring constantly. However, if I think of an active author who is currently blowing my mind,  Alejandro Zambra is the one.