Our team studies cell polarization, a process which involves a reorganization of the cell cytoskeleton and movement of cellular organelles, usually triggered by external cues. We are particularly interested in cell polarity in the context of cell migration and cell division. We develop and use innovative tools based on nano and micro-fabrication techniques, to control and modulate the main physical and chemical parameters of the cell micro-environment. These tools are coupled with high quality quantitative microscopy, and used alongside molecular and cell biology techniques, to obtain a quantitative description of the cell behavior. As well as highlighting new basic concepts about cell polarity, our multidisciplinary approach leads to the development of novel tools with potential applications in biomedical research.
Here is a video that we produced for the ASCB about the life of a dendritic cell:
We have demonstrated that micro-patterns of extra-cellular matrix molecules are able to determine the polarity and division axis of cultured cells. This discovery was patented and licensed to a start-up company (CYTOO, created in 2008) and we have kept developing this technology (see figure 1). In the past few years, we have developed other tools to control the cell micro-environment (micro-channels, confiners etc) and we have exploited them to understand how mechanical constrains affect cell division and migration.
The focus of our current research is how cells proliferate and migrate when space is limited. We want to understand how cells (immune cells and cancer cells) can produce efficient motion under confinement and squeeze through small holes. We also want to understand how physical constrains affect dividing cells.
Our current project on cell proliferation under external constrains has been awarded an ERC Consolidator grant in 2012.
M. Piel is author of more than 60 publications (H factor 26). He holds three patents, and is a co-founder of the CYTOO Company. He is teaching at the Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Institut Cochin. He also teaches cell biology and biophysics in several master courses in Paris. He is one of the founder of Institut Pierre-Gilles de Gennes for Microfluidics. He has been invited to over 30 international meetings and gave over 40 seminars in the last 5 years. He was awaded the Bronze medal of CNRS in 2012.
Subgroup: MOTILE (Mechanobiology Of Trans-Migration in Leukocytes) team headed by Pablo Vargas
Since 2016, Pablo Vargas is part of the team as a permanent researcher (CR1 INSERM). His main interests are in understanding the mechanics behind the efficient migration of cells between distant organs. To do that, his group is using leukocytes specialized for migration in complex microenvironments.
- PhD student Lucie Barbier: Mechanosensing via intracellular membranes.
- Postdoctoral researcher Pablo Saez: Integration of physical and mechanical cues during chemotaxis.
- Postdoctoral researcher Mathieu Deygas: Integration of biochemical signals during migration in 3D microenvironments.