Statistical and Biological Physics

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The development of alveoli in organoids derived from mammary-gland tissue follows the same physical principles as the formation of discrete droplets in a water jet. Many of the organ systems found in animals exhibit highly complex structures, which are essential for their various functions. How such structures develop during embryonic development is a central question in biology. Together with the lab of Andreas Bausch(TUM) we investigated this fundamental problem using mini-organs termed organoids as their experimental system. Our focus was on the spherical ‘alveoli’ in which the ducts of the lactating mammary gland terminate. The study demonstrated in detail that these alveoli form according to the same principles as droplets in a jet of water emerging from a hose. more

Self-organized spatiotemporal patterns are crucial for the function of organisms on all levels, from intracellular molecular organization to developing embryos. A central problem in understanding the formation of intracellular protein patterns is the coupling between the membrane surface and the cytosolic bulk. This bulk-surface coupling is a fundamental and general property of protein-based pattern formation, where proteins undergo attachment and detachment at the cell membrane. However, the consequences of this bulk-surface coupling remain poorly understood. We have developed a systematic theoretical understanding of pattern formation in a concrete bulk-surface coupled system, namely the Min system of E. coli - a paradigmatic model system for studying biological pattern formation in vivo and in vitro. Our theoretical findings, in combination with experiments confirming the theoretical predictions, have allowed us to finally solve a long-standing puzzle, namely the qualitative differences between in vivo pole-to-pole oscillations and in vitro waves of Min proteins. more