We envision biological systems as Living Matter because and are interested in exploring the way in which its fundamental components (genes and proteins) organise themselves in a manner that creates and processes information. A product of this organisation is cells, which are the units from which tissues and organs emerge. We aim to describe and understand the molecular networks that emerge from the interactions between genes and proteins and enable cells to interact with each other, make decisions about their fates (phenotypes) and self organise in space and time.
Our main experimental system at the moment is mouse Embryonic Stem (ES) cells that we use, together with embryos, as the basis for an interdisciplinary approach to how cells generate organs and tissues, through a combination of classical genetics, quantitative cell biology, image analysis and modelling.
A few years ago we observed that, under controlled experimental conditions, mouse ES cells can be coaxed to form patterned aggregates that mimic many of the events of early embryogenesis, including gastrulation and axial organisation. We called these entities "gastruloids" and, for the last few years, have been using them to explore a number of novel research avenues about how cells form tissues and organs, that cannot be explored with embryos (PMID 25371360 , 32076263, 32528178, 30283134). We have recently derived gastruloids from human ES cells thus opening an opportunity to study the early stages of human development ex vivo.