In animals, cells coordinate their behaviours to repair, form or invade tissues. For example, collective cell movements are critical for wound healing and the normal development of embryos—and they contribute to cancer metastasis. But the mechanisms these cells use to coordinate their movements are not well understood. As Canada Research Chair in Quantitative Cell Biology and Morphogenesis, Dr. Rodrigo Fernandez-Gonzalez aims to fill this gap.
He and his team are studying the collective cell movements that drive embryonic wound repair in fruit fly embryos to better understand coordinated cell movement in living animals. They are investigating the mechanisms that control the reorganization of protein networks associated with coordinated cell movements, as well as the molecular cues that enable cells to change their shapes to move together efficiently. Since three-quarters of the genes involved in human disease also exist in fruit flies, their findings will help us to better understand collective cell migration during tissue repair, embryonic development and, ultimately, human diseases.