Associate Professor, Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering
Concurrent Associate Professor, Department of Biological Sciences
Associate Professor, Bioengineering Graduate Program
University of Notre Dame
Abstract: A central question in systems biology is how organs specify their final size and shape through the coupling of cellular mechanics and growth. Our research integrates experimental and computational approaches to uncover underlying principles of organ morphogenesis. To do so, we use the larval wing disc of a fruit fly as a powerful model system for discovering the genetic mechanisms regulating organ size control. We have formulated a computational model that is validated by experimental data to generate new mechanistic predictions of organ growth. Using tools that create spatially defined perturbations to growth or cell mechanics pathways, we demonstrate that increasing cell proliferation through different growth promoting pathways leads to distinct outcomes. Increased insulin signaling enhances the tissue’s basal curvature, while stimulating growth through Bone morphogenetic protein (BMP/Dpp) signaling or elevated Myc expression can flatten the central tissue region. These variations in outcomes arise from differences in how each growth pathway regulates contractility, cell-ECM adhesion, and ECM stiffness. Our interdisciplinary study underscores a fundamental strategy of orchestrating tissue morphogenesis through the balanced interplay of growth and cell mechanics. This seminar provides a multifaceted exploration into organ growth, providing new insights that impact developmental biology, tissue engineering, and regenerative medicine.