The Trivedi group at EMBL Barcelona aims to understand the self-organisation of cells, fundamental to metazoan development, through comparative study of embryos and organoids that generate a global coordinate system de novo.
Emergence of multicellular forms (tissues, organs and organisms) from cells through changes in their shape, size, number and organisation is central to understanding the process of morphogenesis. Studies identifying genes and signalling molecules involved in particular events e.g. cell cycle, growth and death, have revealed conservation across species, thereby suggesting a universal blueprint underlying the generation of organisms. However, we do not know how the activity of genes and proteins is translated into 3D structures in space and time. Studying such processes in embryos does not reveal the true self-organising potential of cells, as typically in an embryo, its geometry, maternally deposited factors and external cues (e.g. extraembryonic tissues or yolk) ‘instruct’ the ‘symmetry breaking’ and patterning the body axes. However, recent works on embryoid bodies/organoids have revealed that cell ensembles can self-organise in 3D within homogeneously distributed signals to generate body axes.