Katia Barrett




2019 - : PhD student in the Lenne Team (CENTURI, IBDM, CPT)

2017 - 2019 : Interdisciplinary Approaches to Life Sciences (AIV) Master 1 and 2. at Centre for Research and Interdisciplinarity

Current Work

In the embryo, fields of tissues interact to carry out increasingly complex series of folds, invaginations and extensions to build up different modular structures that will become the organs and appendages that make up the organism. Within these nested morphogenetic events, tissues impose organising constraints on each other to achieve a structural order that is not inherent in the activity of any one tissue alone. 

My research examines one such event, the extension of the first axis in Xenopus. Critical to this process is the coupling between an epithelium and underlying mesenchymal cells. To address this question, I use a minimal system consisting of an epithelial sheet and a ball of mesenchymal cells that, when stimulated with a cytokine, coordinate their behaviour and elongate. However, when stimulated separately, they fail to elongate. To understand what kind of feedback between the tissues is required, I am using live imaging, tissue deformation maps, membrane tension probes and microsurgical perturbations to dissect the contributions of both tissues and how cooperativity arises.

“The embryologist - in other words, the grown-up embryo - certainly observes the young embryo under study in a way the embryo does not observe the biologist on account of the fact that it does not yet have eyes and its brain is no more than a gutter. But this superiority of the biologist is, first of all, short-lived. Nothing prevents the observed embryo from becoming, in its turn, an eminent biologist or great neurosurgeon who will observe, with a profound sense of superiority, the now-deficient brain of its earlier observer.” - Raymond Ruyer