Cellular mechanisms underlying the morphogenetic biomechanics of mammalian neural tube closure


  • Dr Gabriel Galea

    University College London

Project summary

Hundreds of genes are required for normal embryo development, but how these genes cooperate to direct origami-like folding of the early mammalian embryo to form organs remains largely unknown. 

We use techniques inspired by engineering to determine how cells generate mechanical forces which fold initially flat embryonic tissues into the tube-like precursor of our brain and spinal cord. Failure of formation of this tube causes severe birth defects, including spina bifida, which affects more than 1 in 1,000 pregnancies. Many mammals, including mice, develop spina bifida. We will culture mouse embryos outside of the mother and microscopically visualise their development. We will compare mechanical forces generated by their cells during normal development and with faulty tube formation. 

These analyses will allow us to better predict and ultimately prevent spina bifida.