Katia Barrett

Mechanical environment and fate specification during mammalian morphogenesis

Team: Pierre-François Lenne (IBDM) - Félix Rico (LAI) - Mathias Merkel (CPT)

Her background

November 2019 - present | CENTURI PhD student

2017 - 2019 | MSc Interdisciplinary Approaches to Life Sciences - Centre for Research and Interdisciplinarity (Paris, France)

2013 - 2016 | Master of fine Art, Research based practice - Dutch Art Institute (Arnhemn Netherland)

2007 - 2010 | Bachelor of Art (hons), Art Practice (First class Honors) - Goldsmiths University (London, UK)

About her PhD project

It has been  shown  that  given  the right morphogenic stimulus  embryonic  stem cells can self organise and reliably establish an anterior-posterior axis which marks an early critical step in  embryonic  morphogenesis.  With a minimal in vitro  system (embryonic organoids), we are able to better probe fundamental principles guiding this process that remain difficult in vivo.  Whilst many  approaches  to  understanding  embryonic  patterning have limited to mapping temporal morphogenic signalling,  we  would  like  to build on growing evidence that regional differences in mechanical properties arising in early embryogenesis are likely to  play  an  important  role in  guiding this process. Mechanical regional differences in embryonic organoids are mainly given by the physical constraints impeded by multicellular aggregate formation, cell-cell interactions, and extracellular matrix. We will characterise the dynamic microenvironment of the cells, paying particular attention to the extracellular matrix as it exhibits unique regional topographies that are known to interact  with  cells,  influencing responsiveness to signalling molecules and guiding differentiation. We will determine possible crosstalk between biochemical and biomechanical contributors of axial elongation by comparing differentiation of embryonic organoids in 2D spatially constrained and 3D free-boundary conditions.