Cell and tissue dynamics driving gastrulation: Analysis using advanced live imaging computational data analysis and modelling

Lead Research Organisation: University of Dundee
Department Name: School of Life Sciences


Gastrulation is one of the most critical events during the development of an embryo. It is characterised by large-scale tissue deformations and differential cell movements that result in the formation and positioning of the ectoderm, mesoderm and endoderm in the early embryo. These coordinated tissue deformations derive from the motility and contractility of individual cells interacting with their neighbours. They are highly controlled in space and time through chemical and mechanical cell-cell signalling mechanisms. The aim of this highly interdisciplinary PhD project is combine state-of-the-art molecular and cell biology with lightsheet microscopy based imaging, data analysis and sophisticated mathematical modelling to quantitatively analyse the cell behaviours that drive gastrulation in the chick embryo, a widely studied model system for human development. We will concentrate on elucidating the chemical and mechanical cell-cell signalling mechanisms that control these cell behaviours during gastrulation using systems biology approaches and large scale data analysis. Understanding the interplay between cell-cell signalling and collective cell behaviours iscritical for understanding all stages of embryonic development, the origins of common congenital defects, wound healing, regeneration and cancer metastasis and will guide tissue engineering and the rational use of stem cells in regenerative medicine.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
BB/M010996/1 01/10/2015 30/09/2023
1785593 Studentship BB/M010996/1 01/09/2016 31/08/2020 Guillermo Serrano Najera
Description We study gastrulation, a process where an epithelium is folded to create the main axis (head-tail) of a developing embryo. We discovered that for this process to occur, it is necessary to keep a tight balance in the number and the mobility (fluidity) of the cells and gain some insights its molecular regulation. The understanding this balance will have repercussions in developmental biology, the fast-growing field of mechanobiology and cancer.
We also developed new computational methods to quantify cell behaviours and tissue deformations of interest for many other research groups.
Exploitation Route We do basic research in order to understand the fundamentals of tissue homeostasis and morphogenesis. A better undestanding of the mechanical regulation of epithelia could be helpful for other scientists, cancer and regenerative biology.
Sectors Healthcare,Pharmaceuticals and Medical Biotechnology,Other

Title Computational methods to detect cell behaviours 
Description Software to identify cell divisions, ingressions, density ... and visualization tools. 
Type Of Material Technology assay or reagent 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact To be able to accuratly quantify cell behaviours has notably improve our understanding of the gastrulation and opened new possibilities for new experiments. 
Title Identification of trendy genes of pharmaceutical interest 
Description This software allows the identification of new candidates for drug discovery based on artificial intelligence, along with present new ways to analyze the literature. 
Type Of Material Technology assay or reagent 
Year Produced 2019 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact It could potential speed up the drug-development process and help individual researches and funding agencies to digest big amounts of literature. 
Description Roche Continents 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Postgraduate students
Results and Impact During this event students from different european countries discuss about art and science. Postgraduate students from arts (opera singers, plastic arts, etc) and science students (robotics, chemistry, etc) are put together to learn about the others and desing ways to engage with the public.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://roche-continents.com/home/about-roche-continents.html