We are fascinated by the emergent dynamics of biological systems.
Our lab combines basic research and engineering approaches by working on two (overlapping) questions:
|How to gain a quantitive, biophysical understanding of embryology as needed for medicine and tissue engineering?||
How to design and utilize biotic games to solve challenges in education and large scale biomedical research?
Developmental biology studies how cells divide and organize themselves into structured tissues ranging from simple organs to whole organisms. Despite the increasing success in implicating genes and their interactions in many developmental processes, a full understanding often remains elusive due to the complexity of the underlying genetic networks and the resulting dynamical and mechanical processes.
Image of Zebrafish (source: Zfin)
We approach these challenges with a physics approach by iterating between mathematical models and quantitative experiments while studying zebrafish development. Zebrafish is one of the main model systems used by the scientific community and has many advantageous properties such as optical transparency of the larva, fast and external development, access to many eggs needed for statistics, and the variety of genetic tools available.
Video of early zebrafish development (total time approx. 1 day)
Our work will result in new quantitative methods to monitor and perturb these genetic networks, and we aim for conceptually deeper insights into key developmental principles such as the utility of entrained genetic oscillators and the properties of mechanical signals.
The long-term vision is that we ultimately describe developmental processes in mathematical terms and thereby understand how the underlying genetic networks have been quantitatively tuned during evolution; and apply this knowledge to the engineering of patterned tissues.
We have a close collaboration with the lab of Prof. Alex Dunn (Stanford).
Playing games is deeply rooted in human culture. New game modalities are repeatedly facilitated by new technology, such as video games enabled by electronics. Despite the recent advancements in biotechnology there is virtually no impact on gaming yet.
Conceptual idea of biotic games
Therefore we developed and succesfully tested the concept of ‘biotic games’, i.e., games that require biological process to run (Riedel-Kruse et al. Lab Chip).
Video demonstrating one implementation of biotic games
We believe that biotic games have significant potential, especially for education and research, by enabling non-scientist to engage and interact with modern biotechnology.
We are currently developing biotic games suited for educational purposes in schools and in public settings like museums. The educational aspects and evaluations are done in collaboration with the group of Prof. Daniel Schwartz (Stanford).
We are also developing biotic online games to crowd-source the scientific method, allowing interested non-scientists to make valuable contributions to bio-medically relevant problems while having fun. We hope that this will also lead to a new form of 'citizen science'.