Tissue morphogenesis involves a series of complex and interdependent processes such as the coordinated generation of different cell types and their assembly into functional structures and organs. The important question as to "how cells make tissues" is the central research interest in our department. Much of the work is focusing on the vertebrate cardiovascular system, in which blood vessels need to integrate precisely into very different tissue environments, acquire organ-specific functional specialization and retain plasticity allowing them to adapt to changing local requirements and cues.
Likewise, angiogenesis in the adult organism is critical for tissue repair and regeneration. Blood vessels also play important roles in numerous pathological processes. In particular, sustained angiogenesis within the tumor, one of the 6 hallmarks of cancer defined by Hanahan and Weinberg in 2000 (Cell 100:57-70), promotes tumor growth, cancer cell survival and metastasis. We would like to better understand the cellular mechanisms and the molecular regulation of physiological (mainly developmental) and pathological angiogenesis, and thereby identify potential targets for future therapies. For this purpose, we are combining genetic approaches in the model organisms mouse and zebrafish with high resolution imaging by confocal and multiphoton microscopy, time-lapse microscopy, cell biology, assays for endothelial sprouting and tubulogenesis, biochemistry and gene expression profiling.
Key words: angiogenesis, blood vessel growth, endothelium, pericyte, cell-cell communication, tissue patterning, signal transduction, cell biology