What do we do?
The Computational Biology Group (CoBi) develops computational models of developmental processes. We place a particular focus on mechanistic 4D image-based in silico models of organogenesis (mouse lung, kidney, pancreas, limb, brain, Drosophila wing and eye) and on the delineation of fundamental mechanisms, such as those that restrict the size of organs and those that maintain the proportions of structures in different-sized embryos. The group runs a wet lab to obtain image data, and collaborates with tissue engineers to build spatially-organized tissue from stem cells, as well as with clinicians to apply its techniques to disease models.
One of the key open problems in developmental biology concerns the mechanism of size and growth control. The organ growth rate declines continuously during embryonic development, but the underlying mechanism is elusive. Jannik Vollmer, recipient of an SIB fellowship, previously showed that the growth rate in the Drosophila eye disc declines in a way that is inversely proportional to the increase in the eye disc area (Vollmer et al., Development, 2016). He has now shown that this observation is consistent with growth control by dilution of the cytokine Unpaired (Vollmer et al., Development, 2017). Another important problem concerns the balance of stem cell expansion, quiescence, and differentiation. Marcelo Boareto developed a model of the control of Notch signalling in forebrain development to address this long-standing problem.
Main publications 2017
- Boareto M et al. Differential interactions between Notch and ID factors control neurogenesis by modulating Hes factor autoregulation. Development. 2017 Oct 1;144(19):3465-3474. doi: 10.1242/dev.152520
- Vollmer J et al. Growth control in the Drosophila eye disc by the cytokine unpaired. Development, 144 (5): 837-843, 2017.
- Vollmer J et al. Growth and size control during development. Open Biol. 7 (11): 170190, 2017