Rita Mateus Group

Biophysical Principles of Vertebrate Growth

Our Research Mission

Evolution brings us incredible diversity in animal size and shape, but remarkably, our organs and limbs remain proportional to our body size. This entails an extraordinary level of coordination across different scales. How do organs measure and control their size? This is a crucial question that has remained long unresolved in Biology. We aim to answer it by looking at cells. We are focused on studying biophysical modes of cellular communication: Electrical Flows, Chemical Signalling and Mechanical Forces, with the goal of understanding how organ growth information is encoded.

We use the zebrafish larva as an in vivo model, as it allows for optimal quantitative live imaging and amenable genetics. Importantly, zebrafish regenerate their organs! This allows us to search for common rules of growth: not only in Development, but also in Regeneration. Because of this, we can choose to perform our experiments with Fast or Slow growth rates – at Steady state or Out of Equilibrium scenarios – achieving proportionality or recovering it! We generate the molecular tools that enable us to measure and manipulate the physical parameters at play during organ growth.

We also like to collaborate closely with theoreticians as well as computer scientists, so that together, we can get further mechanistic insight into how do organs grow.