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Tools for engineering self-organisation and pattern formation in microbes and plants

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The generation and maintenance of complex patterns, structure and shape in higher organisms is one of the most challenging aspects of developmental biology. Understanding the pattern formation mechanisms that govern cell fate and the feedback networks that associated with collective cellular behaviour is critical to the engineering of cellular interaction. In the past, attempts to engineer biological development have been restricted to the induction of regulatory pathways, with little or no control over the subsequent developmental processes that occur through interactions between cells within the engineered tissue. The emerging field of Synthetic Biology provides a unique opportunity to investigate spatiotemporal patterning of gene expression and the mechanisms governing coordinated cell behavious during development of multicellular organisms. My aim is to engineer self-organising pattern formation in E.coli, based on a reaction-diffusion model, through the modification of existing bacterial signalling pathways, coupled with regulatory gene control. Designs that encapsulate artificial feedback loops provide the basis to develop complex self-regulating systems. My work to date has focused on the development of a diverse set of experimental and computational tools and methods, with a view to the rational and predictable design, construction and characterisation of such systems. This work will hopefully establish the foundational rules for the engineering of co-ordinated cell behaviour in higher organisms.

This talk is part of the Plant Sciences Research Seminars series.

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