What kind of cell-cell interactions and signaling events are involved in the decision making of a certain cell type during embryogenesis? Which factors do mediate these choices and trigger differential cell behaviors that ultimately lead to the formation of complex structures and tissues?
During my PhD with Arno Müller (University of Düsseldorf, Germany / University of Dundee, UK) I tackled these questions using the Drosophila system where I worked on cell migration and cell shape changes during gastrulation. In particular, I focused on the role of a multi-functional guanine nucleotide exchange factor which is an essential regulator of small GTPases during cytokinesis and the fibroblast growth factor-triggered mesoderm migration in the Drosophila gastrula.
In the past few years as a postdoc in the lab of Stefan Schulte-Merker (initially Hubrecht Institute Utrecht, Netherlands and currently University of Münster, Germany) I continued to work on cell motility, cell-cell communication and the underlying developmental programs that orchestrate organogenesis but this time with a special focus on the formation and maturation of the blood and lymphatic vascular system. To visualize these processes in vivo, I am employing the zebrafish model which enables me to combine the power of in vivo imaging with the constantly growing genetic toolkit that allows the identification and characterization of new players controlling the behavior of different endothelial subpopulations during zebrafish development.
Besides my strong interest in vascular biology I am also interested in newly emerging techniques like the CRISPR/Cas9 system and its derivatives that in the past years completely revolutionized the approaches and possibilities not only in zebrafish research.