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Koentges Research Interests

We are trying to understand the development of the vertebrate skull and how the relevant embryonic tissues interact with the developing brain at the molecular and cellular level in development and evolution. We enjoy tracing cell lineages and other biological phenomena across scales of organization from gene-regulation to macroevolutionary anatomical novelties Nature vol 451 No 7179 pp 658-663 Feb 2008 10/1038/451658a paper

All our projects harness the power of comparative transgenesis, conditional transgenesis and gene ablation, lineage and molecular studies in combination with live imaging in different vertebrate systems.

We look at basic molecular mechanisms of cellular communication and lineage choice in the assembly of complex 3 or 4-dimensional structures, in this case the skull and brain. We realized that the basic mechanisms for dermal bone and endochondral ossification are poorly known and need to be worked out first. We study this in order to decipher how these systems evolve in ontogenetic and deep evolutionary time, at a time when the head, dermal and endochondral skeleton of vertebrates first evolved. To this end we collaborate with palaeontologists and other developmental biologists of complementary expertise.

When some of these molecular interactions between the developing brain and skull go wrong, human illnesses occur. In this context we study the Chiari1 malformation with clinicians and more recently microcephaly, which is relevant to the current and fast evolving Zika pandemic that has started to spread across the globe. If we can make a positive difference then we will.

Beyond some immediate scientific interests I take great interest and care in the education of the researcher of the future, when I am no longer. We have recently done some very exciting crowd-sourcing experiments in vertebrate developmental biology with our Year3 and Year2 students that will become public in the near future. So I am always keen on sharing my passions and interacting with computer science students and specialists from other disciplines, to solve problems of joint interest.

If you are enthusiastic about solving complex puzzles across molecular and systemic levels - and beyond the boundaries of single disciplines, please feel free to contact me anytime.

Huxley Prize Kate Jordan, my fantastic graduate student, was awarded the Thomas Henry Huxley Prize and Marsh Medal for the best zoological PhD thesis in the UK and Northern Ireland. Well deserved, Kate, you discovered an entirely novel mechanism of cranial bone formation and worked very hard for this. This will shed new light on bone evolution, development, cancers and will help bioengineering bones. It was a tremendous privilege working with you!