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Nonlinear Mechanisms of Spatial Symmetry Breaking in Living Systems


The study of experimental pattern formation mechanisms and its relevance to biology has been restricted to nonlinear chemical systems that produce spatial Turing patterns (CDIMA reaction), spiral waves (BZ reaction), propagating fronts and pulses (GO reaction). The important differences between these artificial systems and the natural spatial differentiation occurring in living cells do not allow for direct application of nonlinear dynamics tools to analyze biological patterns. The complexity of living organisms is also complicating the understanding of the underlying mechanisms for the arising of living patterns, therefore a much simpler symmetry breaking mechanism in living cells will allow a closer connection between developmental biologists and nonlinear physicists. The implementation of a spontaneous symmetry breaking mechanism in tissue culture mammalian cells using engineered cell-to-cell communication will constitute a highly improved model system for morphogenesis, early embryo development and skin patterning. This mechanism will be implemented using a highly interdisciplinary approach combining experimental /theoretical experience in chemical symmetry breaking systems and nonlinear physics tools together with a background in synthetic biology and signaling pathways. The candidate background in pattern formation, biophysics and cell biology combined with the expertise of the host laboratory (Elisa Martí at the Parc Cientific of Barcelona University) in symmetry breaking during early development constitute the perfect complement to carry out this type of research. An in-vitro pattern formation system will change the way biologists and physicists interact to understand the complexity of self-organization in living organisms.

Field of science

  • /natural sciences/biological sciences/cell biology
  • /natural sciences/biological sciences/synthetic biology
  • /natural sciences/biological sciences/biophysics

Call for proposal

See other projects for this call

Funding Scheme

MC-IRG - International Re-integration Grants (IRG)


Calle Serrano 117
28006 Madrid
Activity type
Research Organisations
EU contribution
€ 100 000
Administrative Contact
Carlos Manuel Abad Ruiz (Dr.)