Mauricio Rocha-Martins becomes new research group leader at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Biomedicine

Max Planck Research Group investigates the self-correction capabilities of developing tissues

April 22, 2024

Dr. Mauricio Rocha-Martins will head the new independent research group "Embryo Self-correction" at the Max Planck Institute from 1 May, 2024. He and his team will investigate how cells work together to overcome developmental stress and form healthy organs. Rocha-Martins' field of research fits perfectly into the range of topics of the Max Planck Institute.

Mauricio Rocha-Martins is looking forward to his new role in Münster: "With its interdisciplinary research teams, the Max Planck Institute pursues very complementary topics in the field of cell dynamics and cell communication," says the scientist, who previously worked as a postdoc at the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência (IGC) in Portugal. "I am sure that the vibrant scientific community - also through the MPI's strong partnership with the Multiscale Imaging Centre and other members of the Cells in Motion (CiM) Interfaculty Centre in Münster - will be invaluable for my research."

His research question: how do embryos repair themselves when something goes wrong? Organ formation in the embryo is a highly complex process involving a multitude of cellular behaviours and interactions. These can be disrupted during natural development, for example by genetic and environmental stressors  such as mutations, oxygen deprivation and viral infections.

"Given these challenges, it is remarkable that embryos usually develop healthy organs. I want to better understand their amazing ability to self-correct," says Rocha-Martins.

To this end, he is bringing the zebrafish back to the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Biomedicine as a model organism. "Zebrafish have the advantage that they develop outside the womb and are transparent," says Rocha-Martins.
"We will use advanced live imaging techniques to study exactly how developing tissues 'break' and 'fix' themselves." In parallel, his team will grow human organoids to model developmental disorders, which affect 1 in every 40 newborns in the EU. “We want to understand whether and how self-correction mechanisms influence disease outcome”.

Rocha-Martins will not only feel at home in Münster because of the research environment: "It has always been at the top of my wish list to live in a city where I can commute by bike. And now I'm moving to the Germany's cycling capital!" Rocha-Martins also appreciates the city's cultural diversity and its welcoming atmosphere: "Last year, I happened to be in Münster during the Promenade’s “All-you-can-hear street music”, known to the locals as “Grünflächenunterhaltung”, and fell in love with the concept."

Mauricio Rocha-Martins received his Bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences (Genetics) and his Master’s degree in Biophysics from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (UFRJ), Brazil. At the Institute of Biophysics of the UFRJ, he did his PhD studies, during which Rocha-Martins had a one-year research visit to the Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden, Germany. For his postdoctoral studies, he returned to Max Planck Institute of Molecular Cell Biology and Genetics in Dresden. When his supervisor, Caren Norden, was appointed Deputy Director for Science at the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência (IGC) in Portugal, Mauricio Rocha-Martins joined her. The independent Max Planck Research Group of Mauricio Rocha-Martins at the Max Planck Institute for Molecular Biomedicine will be funded for six years.

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