Epithelia are one of the major tissue types that make up the bodies of multicellular organisms. These tissues are sheets of interconnected cells that form the surfaces of our body and our organs, creating physical barriers that protect us from external dangers and control the exchange of materials with the outside environment. Given the essential roles of epithelia in the human body, defects in their functioning are associated with a broad range of diseases.
At SurfEx, an MSCA Doctoral Network focused on studying the surface of epithelial cells, we unite academic and non-academic partners to develop new insights into the formation and functioning of epithelial tissues in health and disease. The top (apical) side of epithelial cells is responsible for the exchange of materials with the outside environment. The formation of a functional apical exchange surface requires complex rearrangements of the cytoskeleton, the formation of surface features like cilia or microvilli, and correct molecular specialization (proteins and lipids).
We combine research in small model organisms with novel 3D culture models to unravel the molecular mechanisms that establish a functional apical exchange surface.