Biomechanics of tissue folding

Mechanics of development and disease group · Vito Conte


Research project

The Mechanics of Development and Disease group – led by Dr Vito Conte at the Institute for Bioengineering of Catalonia (IBEC) in Barcelona advances cross-disciplinary research at the interface between engineering, biology and physics. We are interested in deciphering physical mechanisms of development and disease in biological tissues and organisms.

Specifically, we are interested in deciphering the physical mechanisms driving epithelial tissue folding and understand how this collective phenomenon arises from gene expression at the single cell level. Tissue folding is a morphogenetic process that is key to the design of organoids, the metastatic transition of some instances of cancer disease and to the healthy development of embryos. During this process, epithelial cells must generate force and transmit intercellular stresses to collectively sustain the bending and folding of an entire epithelium.

As a model system to study the link between the biochemistry and biomechanics of tissue folding we utilise in vitro cultured epithelia (in our laboratory) as well as in vivo Drosophila embryos (in collaboration with other laboratories). To address these questions, we combine in vitro and in vivo experiment with biophysical techniques and computational modelling quantify and predict cell and tissue mechanics from microscopy time-lapse images of folding tissues [1-3].


[1] Munoz J. J., Amat D. and Conte V. – Computation of forces from deformed visco-elastic biological tissues – INVERSE PROBLEMS (2018)

[2] Brodland G.W., Conte V. et al. Video Force Microscopy Reveals the Mechanics of Ventral Furrow Invagination in Drosophila. PNAS 107 (2010)

[3] Perez-Mockus G. et al. Spatial regulation of contractility by Neuralized and Bearded during furrow invagination in Drosophila. Nature Communications (2017,in publication)


Job position

We are looking for an exceptionally talented and motivated predoctoral student to tackle the fundamental questions detailed in our research project within a highly multidisciplinary environment. A variety of scientific backgrounds will be considered at the interface between biology, engineering and physics (e.g. biophysics, bioengineering, etc…). The student’s background along with their research interests will be specifically taken into account to shape the research project with the supervisor.

Research project potentially involves a broad range of techniques including time-lapse microscopy, quantitative image analysis and computational modelling. Mastering these techniques will require a substantial degree of willingness and skillfulness in developing custom software routines in ImageJ and Matlab, as well as in utilising software for quantitative analyses that might happen to be relevant to the research project. We invite to apply for this PhD position all students who are passionate and resolute about doing research, and are willing to embrace team effort unreservedly.