"Shaping of biological tissues by topological defects (2022-02-BLANCH_BONNET)" project details

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General information

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Non-equilibrium phenomena; Active liquid crystals; Morphogenesis; Collective cell migration; Microfabrication

Shaping of biological tissues by topological defects

Director(s) and team

Carles Blanch-Mercader & Isabelle Bonnet

Physico-Chimie Curie Lab


Monolayers of elongated cells exhibit characteristics of active liquid crystals, such as long-range orientational order and topological defects: regions where orientational order is ill-defined. During the development of organisms, topological defects are at the core of morphogenetic events and biological processes, such as protrusion formation or cell extrusion. However, the interplay between morphogenesis and topological defects remains to be elucidated.   This PhD project will combine theory and experiments to disentangle the interplay between biological active matter, topological defects, and geometry in the morphogenesis of slender structures. First, we aim at theoretically understanding feedbacks between topological defects and geometry in the emergence of 3D shapes of active liquid-crystal surfaces. Second, the candidate will create and analyze a minimal experimental model system, which will allow one to study correlations between order of cell monolayers and deformations on the gel layer. Combining theory and experiments will facilitate the identification of new morphogenetic mechanisms in multicellular systems, which can also open new ways to design shape-morphing materials inspired by biological systems.   This project will be developed at the Laboratoire Physico-Chimie Curie. By using interdisciplinary approaches at the interface between chemistry, biology, and physics, our unit aims at discovering the role of the physical laws on the architectures and the functions of cellular systems.

Requirements to apply for the PhD thesis project

The ideal candidate will be a physicist with proficiency in statistical physics and nonlinear physics. Prior knowledge in soft condensed matter and complex systems will be an asset. Willing to work at the interface between experiments and theory. Prior knowledge of experimental cell biology is not required.