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Dr. Hernán Lopez-Schier

Research Unit Leader


Helmholtz Zentrum München, Research Unit Sensory Biology and Organogenesis


Deutsches Forschungszentrum für Gesundheit und Umwelt (GmbH)
Research Unit Sensory Biology and Organogenesis
Ingolstädter Landstr. 1
D-85764 Neuherberg

Phone: +49 (0)89 / 3187-2187
Fax: +49 (0)89 / 3187-3192


Research Focus

Our group has historically focused on the genetic and cell biological bases of sensorineural circuits. We have recently expanded our project to investigate the mechanical and biophysical mechanisms that govern the development and regeneration of epithelial architecture. In parallel, we are also use integrative biology and medicine to investigate peripheral neuropathies.

Project: Developmental and Architectural Principles of a Biological Mechanosensor
The accurate construction of mechanosensory organs and neural maps is essential for animals to react to environmental mechanical cues. The mechanosensory lateral line of fishes and amphibians, for example, detects complex hydrodynamics occurring around the animal to trigger innate fast escape reactions, or to modulate complex navigation behaviors that require constant knowledge about the environment. The aim of this project is to characterise in detail the development and structure of the lateral-line peripheral receptors and neural maps, in order to understand how a sensory modality responds to the sensory context.

One outstanding issue that we would like to dissect experimentally is the functional significance of the planar polarization of mechanosensory hair cells. The existence of hair cells of two opposite polarities in the lateral-line peripheral receptors indicates that the lateral line may be able to localise mechanical signals along the animal’s body and discriminate the signals’ vectorial component. We will use a combination of cell biology, genetics, optogenetics and computer modelling to unravel the functional role played by planar cell polarity in a mechanosensory system.

Primary Technique(s): Genetics, optogenetics, pharmacogenetics, cell and molecular biology, live microscopy, laser nanosurgery

Model Organism(s)/System(s): Primarily zebrafish, cultured cells and computer modeling