Department: Cell & Systems Biology, University of Toronto
During morphogenesis, groups of cells coordinate their behaviors to generate tissue form and function. Cell coordination involves diverse cellular processes such as motility, adhesion, and the generation and transmission of mechanical forces. We use a combination of bioengineering, molecular and cell biological tools in the fruit fly embryo to determine the mechanisms that integrate the behaviors of multiple cells to generate specific changes in tissue organization. Wound repair is a conserved morphogenetic process that involves changes in cell shape, molecular localization and the distribution of mechanical forces to close a gap in a tissue. Because wound closure in embryos occurs in the absence of inflammation or scarring, understanding its molecular basis will be of high clinical relevance for surgical recovery and regenerative medicine. We investigate the molecular and cellular mechanisms of wound healing using a three-pronged approach. First, we use computational and live imaging approaches to determine the dynamic cell shape and molecular changes involved in wound closure in the Drosophila embryo. Second, we screen for molecules that mediate the assembly of force-generating structures during wound healing. Finally, we use biophysical methods to investigate how wound repair is influenced by the mechanical properties of the wounded tissue, and how these properties are regulated during the healing process.