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Dr Kristian Franze

We are interested in how mechanical signals contribute to the development and regeneration of the central nervous system.
Dr Kristian Franze

Kristian Franze is accepting applications for PhD students.

Office Phone: +44 (0) 1223 333761, Fax: +44 (0) 1223 333840

Research Interests

Key aspects in the development of the central nervous system (CNS) include the formation of neuronal axons, their subsequent growth and guidance through thick layers of nervous tissue, and the folding of the brain. All these processes involve motion and must thus be driven by forces. However, while our understanding of the biochemical and molecular control of these processes is increasing rapidly, the contribution of mechanics remains poorly understood.

Cell motion is also crucially involved in CNS pathologies such as foreign body reactions, in which activated glial cells migrate towards and encapsulate implants (e.g., electrodes), and the failing regeneration of neurons after CNS (e.g., spinal cord) injuries. Repair can currently not be promoted. So far, research has - without any major breakthrough - mainly focused on chemical signals impeding and promoting neuronal (re)growth.

We are taking a different, interdisciplinary approach and investigate how cellular forces, local cell and tissue stiffness and cellular mechanosensitivity contribute to CNS development and disease. Methods we are exploiting include atomic force microscopy, traction force microscopy, custom-built simple and complex compliant cell culture substrates as well as cell and molecular biology techniques. Understanding how and when CNS cells respond to their mechanical environment will shed new light on CNS development, and it could eventually lead to novel biomedical approaches to treat or circumvent pathologies that involve mechanical signalling.


Mechanobiology Lectures in the Part II PDN/Zoology P9/M6 Cell Assembly and Interactions

Comparative Vertebrate Biology (Part IB)

Veterinary Anatomy: Practicals (Part IA and IB)

Key Publications

Koser DE, Moeendarbary E, Hanne J, Kuerten S, Franze K, (2015) CNS cell distribution and axon orientation determine local spinal cord mechanical properties, Biophysical Journal, 108(9):2137-2147

Pagliara S, Franze K, McClain CR, Wylde G, Fisher CL, Franklin RJM, Kabla AJ, Keyser UF, Chalut KJ, (2014) Auxetic nuclei in embryonic stem cells exiting pluripotency, Nature Materials, 13:638-644

Moshayedi P, Ng G, Kwok JC, Yeo GSH, Bryant C, Fawcett J, Franze K, Guck J, (2014) The relationship between glial cell mechanosensitivity and foreign body reactions in the central nervous system, Biomaterials, 35(13):3919-3925

Franze K, (2013) The mechanical control of nervous system development, Development, 140:3069-3077

Hardie RC and Franze K, (2012) Photomechanical responses in Drosophila photoreceptors, Science, 338(6104):260-263

Betz T, Koch D, Lu YB, Franze K, Kas J, (2011) Growth cones as soft and weak force generators, PNAS, 108(33):13420-13425

Above: A spinal cord cross-section, which is mechanically highly heterogeneous.