REMeD Team
Retina Epithelium Mechanobiology and Diseases
To reproduce the  neuroepithelium, we use retinal organoids to study the relation of RE monolayer mechanobiology with photoreceptors cells and their interaction with other cell layers. The figure and video show the three-dimensional cellular organization of the organoids and their differentiation steps.
To study the effect biochemical and physical cues on RE mechanics, we mimic BrM using hydrogels systems of controlled stiffness and functionalization. Hydrogels not only better mimic physiological stiffnesses, but also give us the possibility to employ mechanobiology techniques that allow both qualitative and quantitative evaluation of adhesive forces on the ECM (traction force microscopy) and at cell-cell junctions (monolayer stress microscopy). Different functionalization techniques can be used to study cell adhesion: full leght ECM proteins can be crosslinked on the gel surface or specific ECM-derived peptides can be bound on gold nanoparticles.
Bottom-up investigation of ECM cues in regulating RE mechanobiology
Stem-cell Based Retina Research Model
RE cells are tightly bound to the underlying basement membrane, which is part of a thicker layer of extracellular matrix called Bruch’s membrane. While the basment membrane components carry the biochemical information for RE adhesion, deeper layers of the Bruch's membrane, composed of fibrillar collagen types I, III and V and elastin fibers, are proposed to determine physical properties of RE.
The retina detects light via photoreceptor cells and outer segments (POS), whose homeostasis depends on direct contact with the retinal epithelium (RE). This epithelium tightly adheres to the Bruch’s membrane, which defines its function.  Still, the relationship between extracellular matrix biochemistry, physical properties and retinal epithelial mechanobiology has not been addressed. After development, retinal epithelial cells do not proliferate, so the epithelium cannot adapt to the extracellular remodelling that occurs with age (*). This opens the unexplored question of how mechanical forces control the cellular and tissue function of the retina (i.e., retinal mechanobiology) in normal ageing and in age-related macular degeneration.
In the laboratory, we use stem-cell derived RE to reproduce in-vitro the retinal epithelium. After few weeks in culture, the cells acquire characteristic features of the in-vivo equivalent such as polarity (Ezrin staining) and apical microvilli.
Mechanobiology of Collective Cell Migration

Collective cell migration is a fundamental biological process characterizing embryogenesis, cancer progression and wound healing. At the singular cell level, the mechanism regulating the migration process is the coordination between cell-cell adhesion structures and cell-extracellular (ECM) adhesion. Many studies have already elucidated the role of junctional components and their regulation during migration, but little is still known about the regulation of cell-ECM adhesion and how these two adhesion sites “communicate” to coordinate collective migration. Our research focus on understanding the role of ECM receptors in coordinating cellular movements.
We investigate collective migration in epithelial cells using a simplified in-vitro model of wound healing. Monolayer forces are quantified using mechanobiology techniques such as traction force and monolayer stress microscopy as shown in the figure.

Aleksandra Kozyrina

Master Student

Dr. rer. nat. Jacopo Di Russo

+49-241 80-88974
Group Leader

Felix Reul

PhD Student
Master Student

Teodora Piskova

Student Assistant

Iulia Scarlat


Stacy Yam

Taspia Prapty

Master Student
Student Assistant
Join us!


Biomedical Engineer



Biomedical Engineer


REMeD in Pictures
Philippe in the lab
Broccoli Spheroid
Cracks on gel
Debug Duck
Easter eggs
Gang at work
Fire balls
Gel Meteore
Gel sterilization
Heart Spheroid
Mordor basement membrane
Sasha & Teodora
Sasha in the lab
Institute for Molecular and Cellular Anatomy
Wendlingweg 2
RWTH Aachen University
D-52057 Aachen