Research in our group

We are interested in a variety of biophysical questions, some more theoretical and on the physics side, and others linked to concrete biological problems. We are in particular fascinated by emergent properties at different scales in biological systems, for instance:

1/ How do cytoskeletal elements, which generate forces within cells, self-organise to produce complex spatio-temporal patterns?
2/ how do cells concomitantly acquire identities and shape a tissue during development?
3/ how does complex tissue architecture derive from simple self-organising principles?

Here are a few examples of concrete problems we have looked or are looking at, often in collaboration with experimental biologists:

Physics of active gels:
The cell cytoskeleton is a fascinating example of an out-of-equilibrium material. We want to understand how the interplay between its mechanical properties and underlying biochemical networks  (see Hannezo et al, PNAS, 2015 or Qin et al, Nat. Comm. 2018 for instance). We are also interested in how such networks can sense and response to mechanical forces. Picture from Prost et al, Nat. Phys, 2016


Stochastic fate choices of stem cells:
The fate of a single stem cell (during development, homeostasis or cancer initiation) is often profoundly stochastic. Nevertheless, at the population level, cells must “know” how to make the right decisions spatio-temporally. These collective dynamics  are still fundamentally ill-understood, and we are approaching it with the tools of statistical physics (at the cell level) and mechanics (at the tissue level), see Sanchez-Danes et al, Nature, 2017 and Scheele et al, Nature, 2017.


Branching morphogenesis:
How does complex tissue architecture derive from simple self-organising principles? We use models from out-of-equilibrium statistical physics to derive quantitative principles of branched organ development (see Hannezo et al, Cell, 2017 for instance). This maps in particular to multicomponent branching and annihilating random walks, which allows for self-organization from simple time-invariant and isotropic rules.