The Lab

or rather, the dream Team

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Rita

I have always been interested in understanding precise growth and form of biological systems, specifically how cells and tissues sense and integrate morphogen signalling and physical forces, allowing for accurate cell division and patterning of organs (and organisms). To that end, my masters and phD studies were focused in zebrafish caudal fin regeneration, where upon injury, cells divide and organ size and shape is precisely recovered, error-free. In my postdoc, I turned to zebrafish pectoral fin formation as a system to understand quantitatively how morphogens control growth during development.

In parallel, I have become interested in understanding the physics and cell biology of animal reflectors. These structures are capable of reflecting light creating structural colors, through the use of photonic crystals. In zebrafish, they exist as intracellular components of pigment cells, the iridophores. This confers the ‘shininess’ that zebrafish have in their stripes and allows for their proper camouflage in the wild. Despite so different from my previous work, this system is allowing us to learn how complex vesicular structures are formed and organized, now at the intracellular level.

In the laboratory, we will continue to pursue these two research avenues to determine the biophysical properties involved in pectoral fin growth and structural coloration. We want to bring unprecedented insight into how growth is modulated: i) at the tissue scale to precisely build (and rebuild!) organs, and ii) at the intracellular scale, to lead cellular structures into reaching functionality. 

Sylvia