Group Elvira Mass


Ontogeny and functions of tissue resident macrophages

Research projects

We study the ontogeny and functions of tissue-resident macrophages - a diverse family of specialized phagocytic cells of the innate immune system that are present in most tissues.

Recent work has led to a major paradigm shift regarding the origin of resident macrophages, as it showed that in many organs they develop during embryogenesis and self-renew in steady state in adult tissues with little contribution from monocytes (Figure 1).


Macrophages represent a founding cell type within most organ anlagen, and as such most likely support organ development and functions. We are interested to delineate their contribution to homeostatic functions during organogenesis but also to disease processes such as metabolic disorders and neurodegenerative diseases. We are further characterizing the cellular and molecular responses of other myeloid cells during these inflammatory conditions. Our main scientific questions are:

1. Does developmental programming of tissue-resident macrophages through environmental cues experienced by the pregnant mother (e.g. Western diet or pollution) cause metabolic disorders and neurological diseases in the offspring?

2. How are tissue inflammation and subsequent regenerative processes instructed by macrophages and other myeloid immune cells during disease?

3. How do microglia contribute to neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative diseases in humans? What is the role of environmental pollution in this scenario? (Figure 2)

These questions are addressed using state-of-the-art technologies such as high dimensional flow cytometry, single cell transcriptomics, genetic mouse models and a human organoids.