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Multicellular organisms are composed of cells connected by ancestry and descent from progenitor cells. The dynamics of cell birth, death, and inheritance within an organism give rise to the fundamental processes of development, differentiation, and cancer. Technical advances in molecular biology now allow us to study cellular composition, ancestry, and evolution at the resolution of individual cells within an organism or tissue. Here, we take a phylogenetic and phylodynamic approach to single-cell biology. We explain how "tree thinking" is important to the interpretation of the growing body of cell-level data and how ecological null models can benefit statistical hypothesis testing. Experimental progress in cell biology should be accompanied by theoretical developments if we are to exploit fully the dynamical information in single-cell data.

Original publication

DOI

10.1126/science.aah6266

Type

Journal article

Journal

Science (New York, N.Y.)

Publication Date

01/2021

Volume

371

Addresses

Department of Biosystems Science and Engineering, ETH Zürich, Switzerland. tanja.stadler@bsse.ethz.ch oliver.pybus@zoo.ox.ac.uk mstumpf@unimelb.edu.au.