Cell Biology and Developmental Biology


How do billions of cells coordinate and structure themselves throughout our lives, making us who we are? Studying how cells are organized and how they function helps us understand how cellular functions may fail, opening up an unlimited field of research for the Institut Curie.

Image couverture equipe Rodriguez

Cell Biology

Cell biology is essential not only to understand living organisms, but also how perturbation of cell behavior (proliferation, adherence, migration) may lead to cancer. Biologists of the Institut Curie explore the organization within cells, the regulation of cell physiology and of cell interactions. Some of their work focuses, for example, on the cell environment and the extracellular matrix, others on the modulation of transport pathways within the cell. Sometimes these discoveries lead to diagnostic or therapeutic innovations.

Using subcellular imaging tools and nanotechnologies, researchers are able to control the shape of cells, impose constraints on them and visualize their smallest components. This allows observing their reaction to stressors or their repair strategies in real time. Using reconstituted cellular assemblies, tissues or micro-organs called organoids, researchers can analyze of cell communicate and how they influence each other. Cellular plasticity, or their ability to adapt their organization, shape and behavior in response to environmental cues is central. Progress in the study of certain genes or proteins, at the tissue or single cell level, as well as the use of pluripotent stem cells will allow researchers to unveil cellular mechanisms that have not yet been explored.  

Combined to our original models and the diversity of our approaches, our powerful cell imaging platform is an essential resource to progress in our understanding of Cell Biology

says Franck Perez, director of the Cell Biology and Cancer unit (UMR144) and head of the Dynamics of Intra-cellular Organization research team.

Developmental Biology

Developmental biology covers the differentiation processes and structural changes experienced by multicellular organisms, such as those occurring during embryonic life or puberty. Studying the embryo, from which every cells of our body come, provides us with a deeper understanding of how cells function in normal and pathological contexts. Notably, cancer cells often reactivate the genomic program of the embryo by unzipping chromatin structures allowing cancer cells to proliferate, spread and disrupt the function of organs.

Developmental biology research teams at the Institut Curie try to understand how genes control cellular identity, to determine precisely when cell lineages are established, for example within the mammary gland, or to delve deeper into how organs are shaped and coordinate their growth. Recent technological advances have opened up new areas of research, such as the chemical cell “signature” particular to each cell of the embryo or the relationship between mechanical forces and organ formation.

In order to gain a global view of developmental biology, we study the embryo at all scales, from the cell nucleus to whole organisms

says Jean-Léon Maître, head of the Mechanics of Mammalian Development research team.