Self-Organization of Multicellular Systems

Self-Organization of Multicellular Systems

Welcome to our group webpage! We are a joint research group between the Max Planck Institute for the Physics of Complex Systems (MPI-PKS) and the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics (MPI-CBG), based at the Center for Systems Biology Dresden (CSBD), established in 2021.

We are theorists, but we closely collaborate with experimentalists, at MPI-CBG and beyond, on problems in theoretical biophysics, applied mathematics, and soft matter physics. Read more about our research.

Looking for a PhD or postdoc position? Read more about how to join us.


Latest Research

Cut it out: Out-of-plane stresses in cell sheet folding of Volvox embryos

P. A. Haas*,# and S. M. H. Höhn*,#, bioRxiv (2023)

The folding of cellular monolayers pervades embryonic development and disease. It results from stresses out of the plane of the tissue, often caused by cell shape changes including cell wedging via apical constriction. These local cellular changes need not however be compatible with the global shape of the tissue. Such geometric incompatibilities lead to residual stresses that have out-of-plane components in curved tissues, but the mechanics and function of these out-of-plane stresses are poorly understood, perhaps because their quantification has proved challenging. Here, we overcome this difficulty by combining laser ablation experiments and a mechanical model to reveal that such out-of-plane residual stresses exist and also persist during the inversion of the spherical embryos of the green alga Volvox. We show how to quantify the mechanical properties of the curved tissue from its unfurling on ablation, and reproduce the tissue shape sequence at different developmental timepoints quantitatively by our mechanical model. Strikingly, this reveals not only clear mechanical signatures of out-of-plane stresses associated with cell shape changes away from those regions where cell wedging bends the tissue, but also indicates an adaptive response of the tissue to these stresses. Our results thus suggest that cell sheet folding is guided mechanically not only by cell wedging, but also by out-of-plane stresses from these additional cell shape changes.

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We have postdoctoral positions and fully funded PhD student positions available!


Our research

Read more about our research interests in theoretical biophysics, mathematical biology, and beyond!