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Department of Physiology, Development and Neuroscience



2007 BS Tsinghua Univ. / 2013 PhD Harvard Univ. / 2015 HHWF-HHMI Postdoc Fellow / 2018 NIH K99 / 2019 Wellcome/Royal Society Sir Henry Dale Fellow / 2022 ERC STG


I am interested in the ways in which developing tissues produce and respond to mechanical forces in order to achieve the correct shape and pattern. We use early avian embryos as a model system. The large size and accessibility of these embryos allow us to image cell and tissue dynamics, perform molecular genetic perturbations, and deploy novel mechanical tools such as soft gels, cantilevers and nanorobots to measure and apply forces. Some of our ongoing projects are: the role of paraxial mesoderm forces on body axis straightness (bilateral symmetry) and neural folding, lumen pressure and tissue mechanics in the early central nervous system, the cellular responses to tissue forces in the axial progenitors, and the regulation of global tension on the early chicken embryo.

Co-workers (full list at
Lauren Moon
Yisha Lan
Ana Hernandez Rodriguez
Susannah McLaren
Lakshmi Balasubramaniam
Joana Vidigueira
Fengtong Ji
Yixin Dai
Emily Holmes


Key publications: 

McLaren SBP, Xue S, Ding S, Winkel A, Baldwin O, Dwarakacherla S, Franze K, Hannezo E, Xiong F, “Differential tissue deformability underlies shape divergence of the embryonic brain and spinal cord under fluid pressure” BioRxiv

Lu C*, Vidigueira JMN*, Chan JJC*, Maksymiuk A, Xiong F, "Cell density couples tissue mechanics to control the elongation speed of the body axis", (*equal contribution) BioRxiv

Kunz D, Wang A, Chan CU, Pritchard RH, Wang W, Gallo F, Bradshaw CR, Terenzani E, Muller KH, Huang YYS, Xiong F, (2023) “Downregulation of Extraembryonic Tension Controls Body Axis Formation in Avian Embryos”, Nature Communications

Chan CU*, Xiong F*, Michaut A, Vidigueira JMN, Pourquie O, and Mahadevan L., (2023) “Direct Force Measurement and Loading on Developing Tissues in Intact Avian Embryos”, (*equal contribution), Development

Moon LD & Xiong F (2021) Mechanics of neural tube morphogenesis. Seminars in Cell & Developmental Biology

Oginuma, M., Harima, Y., Tarazona, O.A., Diaz-Cuadros, M., Michaut, A., Ishitani, T., Xiong, F. and Pourquié, O (2020). Intracellular pH controls WNT downstream of glycolysis in amniote embryos. Nature

Xiong, F., Ma, W., Bénazéraf, B., Mahadevan, L. and Pourquié, O (2020). Mechanical coupling coordinates the co-elongation of axial and paraxial tissues in avian embryos. Developmental Cell

Teaching and Supervisions


Contributor to P6/ZL6 Part 2 Organogenesis

Outside of Cambridge:

Developmental Biology (HMS, SJTU, ZJU, DKU)

Biophysics (introduction and advanced, DKU)

Group Leader at Gurdon Institute
Affiliated with PDN
Picture of Dr Fengzhu  Xiong

Contact Details

Rm. 330 Gurdon Institute, Tennis Court Road
+44 (0) 1223 3767201
Email address: