DEVELOPMENT AND EVOLUTIONARY MORPHOGENESIS
Group description/Main objectives
The group studies the embryonic development of bird (chick) and mammals (mouse), focussing on how the extracellular matrix and cell-extracellular matrix interactions influence cell differentiation and cell behaviour during development with particular emphasis on the morphogenesis (“the creation of form”) of mesodermal derivatives.
We are particularly interested in how the nature of the extracellular matrix (ECM) surrounding a cell contributes to developmentally controlled mesenchyme-to-epithelium and epithelium-to-mesenchyme transitions during somitogenesis and how the ECM affects the development of one of the somite derivatives, namely skeletal muscle. We also use the mouse embryo model to focus on how the development of back muscles of terrestrial vertebrates has changed when compared to the pattern observed in embryos of aquatic vertebrates, ultimately providing a muscle organization that supports the axial skeleton on land. Finally, we are also interested in determining whether the ECM environment surrounding embryonic progenitor cells in the embryo (e.g. progenitors of skeletal, cardiac and smooth muscle) regulates their decision to remain proliferative or enter their differentiation programmes.