The cellular and physical mechanisms of developmental symmetry

Year of award: 2019


  • Dr Fengzhu Xiong

    University of Cambridge, United Kingdom

Project summary

A sophisticated structure like the eye forms from a collection of tissues during the development of an embryo. These tissues grow and deform and interact with each other to construct an organ. The mechanical forces that the tissues create and experience during this process are poorly understood. 

We will study body axis symmetry, namely the formation of a straight spine in vertebrate embryos, including humans. We will combine imaging, theory and biomechanics to identify the forces that straighten different tissues of the body as they grow We will also find the mechanisms that correct curvatures and the situations when such mechanisms fail.

Our findings might explain how developmental defects take place and provide guidance for engineers to create replacement organs and tissues from stem cells.