Michelangelo von Dassow

Michelangelo von Dassow

Research areas

Research years

My main objective for research space this summer is to make sure that I can use two developmental biomechanics techniques with local species and FHL’s equipment, because I want to demonstrate these techniques in the embryology course. It would be valuable to demonstrate biomechanical techniques in the embryology course because biomechanics influences morphogenesis, and influences how embryos experience their environment. Biomechanics affects morphogenesis directly because shape changes depend on the forces applied to a material, and the material’s resistance to deformation. In addition, mechanical signals influence cytoskeletal function and structure, which in turn controls morphogenetic cell shape changes. A few reports argue that mechanical stimuli also influence cell fate specification and gene expression in embryos from across the bilateria. Mechanics also affects how embryos survive (e.g. tolerance of shear stresses during spawning) and disperse (e.g. embryo/larval swimming).    The two techniques I will test out are micropipette aspiration and parallel plate compression to measure tissue stiffness, viscoelasticity, and internal pressure. I have used micropipette aspiration to measure the viscoelasticity and stiffness of frog embryos, but I have not used either technique at FHL.    Secondarily, I hope to use these techniques to get preliminary data on sand dollars for a grant proposal on the function and regulation of mechanotransduction in echinoderm embryos. I want to test whether salinity – which causes cell swelling/shrinking – affects cell viscoelasticity/stiffness in ways that could enhance or reduce whole-embryo size changes.

Selected publications


Feroze, R., Shawky, J. H., von Dassow, M. and Davidson, L. A. (2015) ‘Mechanics of blastopore closure during amphibian gastrulation’, Developmental Biology 398(1): 57-67.


von Dassow, M., Miller, C. J. and Davidson, L. A. (2014) ‘Biomechanics and the Thermotolerance of • Development’, PLoS One 9(4): e95670.