PLM 11 Speakers
*Click on individual speakers' names to access their personal webpages
Bragg Lecture: Eric Wieschaus (Princeton, USA)
Mechanics and Cellular Flow patterns in Early Embryos
My lab studies early embryonic development in Drosophila, focusing on the stages between nuclear proliferation and the morphogenetic movements of gastrulation. This three hour period marks the transition between the embryos strict reliance on maternally supplied gene products and the patterned activation of transcription in the embryo itself. We use a combination of traditional genetics, molecular biology, quantitative 4D imaging and biophysical approaches.
Damien Coudreuse (Rennes, France)
Beyond complexity: lessons from simplified yeast cells
Our lab uses fission yeast cells operating with artificial, simplified cell cycle circuits to understand fundamental aspects of the architecture and evolution of this essential process. From externally imposing the organisation in time, space and activity level of the main cell cycle regulator, the cyclin-dependent protein kinase Cdc2, to using these minimal cells as models for experimental evolution, our studies aim at investigating the cell cycle beyond its complexity. We believe that these bottom-up approaches will help us uncover new principles governing the proliferation of eukaryotic cells.
Alba Diz-Muñoz (Heidelberg, Germany)
Membrane tension as an integrator of signaling during neutrophil polarity
Our primary interest lies in understanding the reciprocal interactions between physical forces and cellular signalling cascades during the establishment of cell polarity and subsequent cell motility. Combining optogenetics, TIRF microscopy, 2-photon imaging, FRET sensors and atomic force microscopy, we aim to understand how membrane tension/curvature affects signalling and vice-versa to organise cell polarity during migration of immune cells and zebrafish mesendodermal precursors.
Paul Forscher (Yale, USA)
Modulation of Traction Force by Focal Arp2/3 Dependent Actin Assembly
Homophilic binding of Ig superfamily adhesion molecules can lead to actin filament assembly near nascent adhesion sites. Such actin assembly can generate significant localized forces that have not been characterized in the larger context of axon growth and guidance. We used apCAM coated bead substrates applied to the surface of neuronal growth cones to investigate development of forces evoked by varying stiffness of mechanical restraint. I will discuss results that suggest local actin assembly forces can buffer nascent adhesion sites from the mechanical effects of retrograde actin flow and the physiological implications of these findings.
Jérôme Gros (Paris, France)
Mechanics of Gastrulation
Our lab is interested in the role of cell behaviour (cell shape, movement, division, etc.) in tissue morphogenesis and how it impacts patterning of different structures during embryogenesis of higher vertebrates. We use an integrative approach ranging from classical embryology, molecular genetics, cellular biology, state-of-the-art live imaging microscopy and biophysics to understand how cells and molecular cues interplay to shape tissues during embryogenesis.
Dominic Grün (Freiburg, Germany)
Deciphering cellular differentiation trajectories with single cell transcriptomics
I am investigating the origin and consequences of gene expression noise by using single cell based high throughput methods. In particular, in my lab we are utilizing single cell transcriptomics to discriminate cell types and states and to infer differentiation trajectories. With this strategy our aim is to elucidate plasticity and mechanisms of cell fate commitment. Our studies are focused on the major mouse lymphocyte branches and we examine disease models to elucidate aberrant differentiation with a focus on cancer.
Anna Kicheva (Vienna, Austria)
Specification of spinal cord pattern by opposing morphogen gradients
Our lab is interested in understanding how cell diversification and tissue growth are controlled during development to produce organs with correct final sizes and pattern. We use vertebrate neural tube development of mouse and chick as a model system. In our work, we develop and use quantitative experimental approaches that help us relate experiments to theoretical frameworks.
Mathias Lutolf (Lausanne, Switzerland)
Mechanical control of intestinal organoid formation
The earliest steps of development are characterized by cellular reorganization and differentiation within a three-dimensional (3D) microenvironment. This 3D context allows for a complex spatial interplay between biochemical and physical signals, and governs important cellular rearrangements leading to morphogenesis. In vitro approaches have attempted to recapitulate key features of these processes, and it has now become possible to generate an increasing variety of self-organizing multicellular tissue constructs termed ‘organoids’. While important aspects of the 3D in vivo organization have been recreated in these organoid systems, such studies have been exclusively performed in MatrigelTM, a poorly defined 3D microenvironment whose properties cannot be readily modulated. As such, the uncharacterized interactions between cells and this extracellular matrix (ECM) have proven to be a major challenge to understanding the underlying regulatory mechanisms governing morphogenesis. In this talk, I will highlight recent efforts in my lab to employ tunable synthetic hydrogels in order to disentangle the contributions of biochemical and physical components of the microenvironment in the specification of stem cell fate and morphogenesis.
Ben MacArthur (Southampton, UK)
Stochastic models of stem cells
My group combines experiment and mathematical modelling to better understand the molecular basis of stem cell identities, and how these identities change during differentiation.
Berenike Maier (Cologne, Germany)
How bacteria tune interaction forces to shape biofilms
Our research group works at the interface between biophysics and microbiology, focusing on the mechanism, regulation, and evolutionary benefit of molecular machines. Our research topics include the molecular mechanism of force generation by bacterial pili, mechanical properties of bacterial biofilms, and the benefit of horizontal gene transfer.
Lene Oddershede (Copenhagen, Denmark)
Lene Oddershede works at the cross roads of physics, optics, cell biology, and medicine. Using optical manipulation and various forms of microscopy she studies the physics of living organisms at the single molecule, whole cell and tissue levels. She has a special interest in the dynamics and development of cancer and stem cells.
Matthew Paszek (Ithaca, USA)
Physical Biology of the Glycocalyx
The hardware for intracellular signal transduction consists of thousands of membrane receptors and signaling molecules carefully arranged throughout the cell. Notably, the cell expends the majority of its energy maintaining its biomolecules in spatial arrangements outside of thermodynamic equilibrium. The Paszek group investigates how signaling patterns emerge from these spatial arrangements and what role mechanical forces and biophysical interactions play in organizing biomolecules at molecular length scales. In essence, we seek to understand how life works at tiny, nanometer length scales.
Guillaume Salbreux (London, UK)
Physics of epithelial morphogenesis
I am a theoretical physicist interested in understanding mechanics and shape generation at the level of cells and tissues. In collaboration with experimentalists, we aim at obtaining quantitative descriptions of cell migration, cell division and tissue morphogenesis.
Michael Stumpf (London, UK)
Uncertainty in the networks, landscapes and dynamics underlying developmental processes
I am trying to understand how cells make decisions (e.g. whether to divide/proliferate, differentiate or commit to controlled cell death). Such decisions are the result of computations done by complex molecular networks. The structure and dynamics of these networks are generally not known and much of my work deals with the development of new methods that allow us to get better and deeper understanding and mechanistic insights into these networks.
Joe Swift (Manchester, UK)
Response to mechanical demand: from nucleus to matrix
I am interested in how cells and tissues maintain robustness to the mechanical demands of their surroundings. Cell behaviour is influenced by a combination of chemical and mechanical signals from the extracellular environment that must be transduced within the cell to regulate transcription and proteins. Defensive cellular reactions to elevated mechanical loading, such as may be experienced in active tissues, include changes to cyto- and nucleo- skeletal organization, regulation of the heat stress response pathway, and modulation of new matrix secretion. The capacity of our bodies to regulate these protective mechanisms diminishes as we age, thus potentially contributing to age-associated pathology.
Danijela Vignjevic (Paris, France)
The role of tumor microenvironment in cancer cell invasion
The broad objective of our research is to understand how epithelial cells interact with their microenvironment during migration, focusing on the mechanism of cell migration and the role of actin cytoskeleton in this process. We use a gut as model system to understand cell migration in homeostasis, wound healing and cancer invasion. Our research strategy combines molecular and cell biology techniques with live-cell imaging. In particular, we use 2D and 3D in vitro cell cultures; tissue slices cultured ex vivo; and different transgenic mouse models to study cell migration in the living animal.