Principles of Polarity – Integrating genetic, biophysical and computational approaches to understand cell and tissue polarity

The Innovative Training Network (ITN) ‘PolarNet’ is funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 675407. PolarNet is a large European research and training consortium that brings together academic and private partners from 7 European countries to study the basic principles of cell polarity.  PolarNet will run for 4 years, starting on October 1st 2015, and funds 15 PhD students.

The ability of cells to polarize underlies the most basic biological functions such as motility and response to external challenges, but also the formation and maintenance of tissues within a multicellular organism. The importance of cell polarity is underscored by the fact that cell polarity is essential for animal development and is perturbed in disease states such as cancer. Understanding of cell polarity requires knowledge of the molecular players involved and a quantitative description of their biochemical interactions, as well as the mechanical processes underlying polarity establishment and maintenance.

PolarNet establishes a multidisciplinary, intersectoral training and research programme to study the principles of cell polarity. The research will combine complementary model systems ranging from fungi and cultured mammalian cells to whole organisms, and employ a broad set of approaches, such as advanced genetics, protein biochemistry, high-resolution live imaging and image analysis, biophysics and theoretical modelling.


A joint training program

A key benefit of Marie Curie Initial Training Networks is that the PhD students enrolled in the network can receive joint, network-wide training. The PolarNet training programme aims to equip the PhD students with the combination of research-related and transferable competences needed to succeed in the European science and innovation sector, and offers network-wide courses in 4 areas:

  • Through scientific courses, each PhD student will receive basic training in cell polarity, and the application of biophysical and modelling approaches.
  • Through conferences and summer schools organized by the network, all PhD students will stay informed of each other’s projects, thereby learning first-hand how the different approaches together can inform on a biological principle.
  • Transferable skills relevant to life-science research are taught through tailor-made courses on advanced technology, intellectual property rights, scientific writing, and presenting.
  • Personal development is stimulated through career planning workshops and individual coaching by a professional career advisor.

(For the future, a detailed page of the courses)


Fifteen individual research projects

The core of PolarNet is formed by the individual research projects. Understanding a complex self-organizing biological system like polarity will require a multidisciplinary approach, combining biological and biophysical experimentation with theoretical approaches from the fields of physics and mathematics. PolarNet brings together experts in molecular, cell and developmental biology, biochemistry, biophysics, microscopy, and mathematical modelling, and will recruit and train 15 PhD students in this new integrative biology of the 21st century. The individual projects of the recruited ESRs together address three general questions on cell and tissue polarity:

  1. What are the fundamental principles of polarity establishment?
  2. How do cortical polarity complexes control polarization in a wide range of cell and tissue types and during dynamic processes such as tissue remodelling and cell migration?
  3. How is cell polarity coordinated with the development of multicellular tissues?

To promote future mobility and collaborative research, the projects of each PhD student are strengthened by secondments with academic and private partners. For details of these projects and instructions how to apply, see the individual project pages.