Elias H. Barriga, principal investigator of the Mechanisms of Morphogenesis research group at the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciência, studies directed collective cell migration, the coordinated motion of a group of cells travelling to their target tissues, guided by external signals. This migratory function is essential for a myriad of processes that range from embryonic development, to tissue repair and cancer metastasis. Regardless of its wide biological relevance the mechanisms that guide directional collective cell migration in the native environments remain unclear.
With the ERC Starting Grant, Elias, and his team, aim at better understanding how cells migrate in complex environments which are present in our bodies. Intriguingly, in such an environment cells need to constantly sense and respond to multiple biochemical and biophysical signals - however the interplay between these cues remains largely unknown.
"It is of particular interest to our research the mechanism by which biochemical and biophysical stimuli are integrated into a coherent directional and collective migratory behavior" explains Elias Barriga. With the ERC Starting Grant "our research group expects to contribute with unique perspectives to a wide range of fields, especially to the field of embryonic development and the study of congenital defects, as well as the field of cancer and regeneration".