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Quantitative Biology of Pattern Formation

Multicellular organisms are fascinating: they are complex, dynamic, adaptive and display exceptional levels of organisation, yet they come into existence from relatively simple setouts.

Our research aims at identifying general principles explaining how the cells self-organise to form tissues with complex architectures and functions.

By acquiring a quantitative understanding of this question, we wish to advance our ability to engineer novel in vitro models of development and diseases and to inform future strategies for tissue regeneration and repair.

Guillaume Blin

Group leader
Group Leader
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Aims and areas of interest

Our main hypothesis is that patterning is an emergent process. We are particularly interested in understanding how collective interactions occuring at the cellular level may predict the formation of patterns at the tissue level. We also aim to identify general design principles in the formation of tissues which might explain robustness and evolvability of multicellular organisation.

We adopt a forward engineering approach combining mathematical modelling with practical experiments. We use synthetic biology, quantitative imaging and micro-fabrication techniques in order to advance our understanding of patterning and our ability to engineer novel in vitro models of development and diseases. In the process we generate techniques and computational tools which we hope will benefit the broader community.

Mammalian embryogenesis

Mammalian embryogenesis begins with a single cell with no sign of asymmetry. Yet, a ‘coordinate system’ emerges as the embryo develops and forms the axes of the body plan. How is symmetry broken? How is patterning controlled over different time and length scales to create ever more complex structures?

Open-Source Software for quantitative image analysis

Nessys: A new set of tools for the automated identification of nuclei in complex multicellular systems.

PickCells: A graphical image analysis software for the quantification of patterning from multidimensional images.

GitLab repositories: website containing PickCells and Nessys source code, as well as some supporting materials for our published articles (for example R code and sample dataset for reproducing some of our published figures).

Video protocol: a video protocol describing a micropatterning technique we have established in the lab.


Dr. Linus Schumacher, MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine
Dr. Thanasis Tsanas, Usher Institute
Prof. Dave Robertson, College of Science & Engineering, University of Edinburgh
Dr. Elise Cachat, School of Biological Sciences, University of Edinburgh
Prof. Val Wilson, MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine
Dr. Sally Lowell, MRC Centre for Regenerative Medicine