Thesis Prize SFBD 2022: Dr. Hélène Vignes
First prize :
→ Invitation to give a plenary lecture at the 3e Franco-Japonese DevBio meeting, from 7th to 10th Nov 2022, in Strasbourg
→ Prize of 1000 €
The 2022 SFBD Thesis Prize has been awarded to Dr. Hélène VIGNES for her thesis entitled “Molecular and cellular processes involved in the morphogenesis of the zebrafish atrio-ventricular canal”. Hélène did her thesis under the supervision of Dr. Julien Vermot, at the “Institut de Génétique et Biologie Moleculaire et Cellulaire” in Strasbourg. The most important part of her doctoral work has been published in the journal ‘Developmental Cell’.
The work of the winner:
Hélène Vignes exploited a remarkably interdisciplinary combination of genetics, modelling, imaging and cell biology techniques to study the formation of the atrio-ventricular canal (AVC), a region of the developing heart that gives rise to the cardiac valves. During development this structure is characterized by a higher cellular density than the surrounding regions of the developing heart. Hélène first showed that this is due to a significant cell volume decrease at the AVC region, then demonstrated that such a decrease in size is controlled by the mechanical forces generated by the cell microenvironment such as blood flow, heart contraction, ExtraCellular Matrix (ECM) composition. She even went on to identify several of the molecular players involved in this process and could show that Hyaluronic Acid, an ECM component, and two stretch-sensitive transmembrane channels, TRPP2 and TRPV4, are required to induce cell volume decrease.
The jury considered that Hélène’s work and the resulting publication are absolutely remarkable in that they underlie how multiple genetic, biochemical and mechanical cues orchestrate together the complex choreography of animal organogenesis. Besides, Hélène’s thesis manuscript was considered exemplary for its exhaustivity, concision, clarity and accessibility.