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Development and Evolutionary Morphogenesis - DEM

The DEM Research Group includes four senior researchers (integrated members), three holding academic positions and one assistant researcher. The group currently has two PhD students, two MSc students and a senior technician.

Objectives of the Research Group

Our group uses a Developmental Biology approach to ask fundamental questions about how organisms, and the organs and tissues they contain, develop. Notably, it is at the organ and tissue levels that diseases become manifest. For this reason, Developmental Biology has been, and continues to be, very effective in delivering explanations for diseases or medically relevant processes including birth defects, cancer, wound healing, tissue regeneration and regenerative medicine, including stem cell biology.

We work primarily on understanding how components of the extracellular matrix, the macromolecular network that exists between cells, influences cell behaviour, both chemically and mechanically. Our major model system is the development of the amniote musculoskeletal system and we are interested in how the different cell types that compose this system communicate and regulate each other’s development and how, in certain cases, defects in these communication events lead to disease, such as the case of muscular dystrophies. We are also interested in studying the role the extracellular matrix plays in regulating cellular responses to stress and damage in diseases other than those of the musculoskeletal system, like for example in cancer.  

The specific objectives of our group are the following:

  1. To understand the cellular and molecular processes underlying the development of the musculoskeletal system. We are particularly focused on how different cell types and tissues communicate via paracrine factors and extracellular matrix molecules ensuring the development of a physiologically functional system.
  2. To use our knowledge of the normal development of the musculoskeletal system to address what exactly goes wrong in congenital disease states, such as the muscular dystrophies, where the communication between cells and the extracellular matrix are affected and use this knowledge to pinpoint therapeutic avenues for these diseases.
  3. To study, using in vivo models and in vitro cell culture systems, how the physiological and biomechanical properties of the extracellular matrix impact cell responses during development and in pathological conditions, such as in muscular dystrophies or cancer.
  4. To pursue several ongoing collaborations where our expertise on extracellular matrix biology, embryo development, in vitro biological systems and/or cellular responses to disease is used.