Research Groups

Shaping the vertebrate retina: Cells, tissue and tissue mechanics

In the lab, we aim to untangle the events that lead to the development of organs. In this context, we study the formation of the vertebrate retina from cells to tissue and take the interactions between scales into account. We further assess how mechanics influence tissue formation. 

Importantly, only when developmental programs occur coordinately from one stage to the next can tissues form correctly in time and space. Thus, we work on three key steps of retinal formation and investigate their interplay:

1) We aim to elucidate how cells of the optic vesicle rearrange to efficiently form the neuroepithelium and the retinal pigment epithelium that together establish the optic cup.

2) We want to investigate the proliferation dynamics of neuroepithelial cells leading to optic cup growth until the correct number of cells is generated that poises the system for differentiation. 

3) We resolve how and when neuroepithelial cells enter neurogenesis programs. Furthermore, as neurons are frequently born far away from the position at which they later function, we investigate how newborn neurons move to the correct layer within the developing tissue, a process termed neuronal lamination

To get insights into these fundamental questions, we combine methods of cell and developmental biology with advanced quantitative imaging, image analysis tools and, in collaborations, theoretical modeling. 

The overarching goal of our work is thus to shed light on how morphogenesis, growth and differentiation are coordinated in development. This will generate an understanding of the principles of retinal and brain formation specifically and organogenesis in general.    

Current and future areas of research include:

  • Deciphering the interplay of epithelial rearrangements during optic cup morphogenesis taking single cells and tissue scale changes into account.


  • Untangling the molecular cascades involved in interkinetic nuclear migration in different tissue contexts and their impact on tissue wide growth. 
  • Quantitative analysis of growth and limits of growth in the developing neuroepithelium.


  • Deconstruction of neuronal lamination in the retina at the cellular and tissue level over development. 



Selected Publications