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Our research is focused on understanding the molecular and physical rules that cells use to build and shape functional organs. The goal of our lab is to dissect the emergent properties progenitor cells use to build complex higher-order tissue structures, like our organs. We take a multidisciplinary approach, using a combination of quantitative light microscopy, genetics, and biochemistry on the developing renal system of the fruit fly (Drosophila melanogaster Malpighian tubules) as an in vivo model for organogenesis. The developing fly renal system involves the generation and extension of two pairs of tubes that fold on themselves in a stereotypic manner providing an ideal model in which to isolate the parameters that generate specific cell and tissue shapes while keeping the cells in an in vivo context. Work in our lab will leverage the known conserved pathways and molecular mechanisms at work in studying cells at an individual basis to uncover how progenitor cells collectively integrate these features into highly regulatable 3D tissue forms with physiological functions.
We expect that cells and tissues will use a diversity of strategies to generate 3D folding patterns – and that understanding of how cellular shape feeds into tissue form will inform us how organ form informs its physiological function. Understanding these strategies will bring us closer towards recovering organs that are in dysfunction or regenerating organs.