Priya lab Organ Morphodynamics Laboratory

A developing zebrafish heart in four stages.

We want to understand how simpler structures like sheet of cells are moulded into complex organs in a developing embryo. 

Organs are composed of thousands of cells that divide, move, differentiate, and change their shape to generate their complex three-dimensional (3D) architecture. What triggers a particular cell in a population to change its shape or commit to a specific fate? How this information, encoded in mechanical or molecular cues, traverse and integrate across biological scales – cells to tissues to organs? 

We aim to address these fundamental questions by studying the heart – the first organ to form and function during embryonic development. To supplement the physiological demands of a growing embryo, a primitive heart transforms from single cell layered hollow tube into a highly-organised intricate 3D structure composed of specialized cell types.

Using transparent zebrafish embryos and advanced microscopy, we visualise this remarkable morphological transformation as it unfolds and monitor changes in cell shape and fate while the heart is developing and functioning inside the embryo. Combining cross-disciplinary approaches from cell biology, developmental genetics and physics, we investigate the mechanical and molecular mechanisms sculpting this vital organ.

The ultimate goal of the lab will be to extend these analyses in other developmental contexts and identify if there are unifying principles underlying complex organ morphogenesis. We expect that our research will advance our understanding of cardiac malformations and will have important implications for regenerative biology and tissue engineering efforts.