Self-Organization of Biological Systems

Self-Organization of Biological Systems


Luciano Marcon



The main goal of our laboratory is to uncover which genetic and cellular mechanisms control multicellular self-organization. To do so, we study how embryonic stem cells are able to spontaneously self-organize when cultured in three dimensional aggregates called Embryoid Bodies. Our research focuses on two main areas:

i) Studying which self-organizing gene regulatory network underlies germ layer specification in mouse Embryoid Bodies and characterizing its role during normal mouse development

ii) Understanding which external stimuli and which cellular behaviors drive Embryoid Bodies elongation and gastrulation


We address these questions by using a multidisciplinary systems biology approach that combines experiments, three-dimensional Lightsheet microscopy and computational modeling. Our long-term goal is to develop a comprehensive multicellular model of germ layer patterning to explore how gene regulatory networks, cellular behaviors and external signals are coupled by feedback to control patterning and morphogenesis. This integrative approach will allow us to understand the role of self-organization during embryonic development and to devise novel strategies for tissue-engineering.

Self-organization of germ layers in mouse Embryoid Bodies

3D multicellular simulation of a simple self-organizing reaction-diffusion model


3D Lightsheet microscopy: live-imaging of Zebrafish development from 2-cell stage, green signal shows nuclei marked by H2B-GFP


In process