Associate Professor Mathias Francois established the Centenary Institute’s ‘David Richmond Laboratory for Cardiovascular Development: Gene Regulation and Editing’ back in June 2019. It’s the architecture and complexity of the vascular system in humans that he finds particularly fascinating, especially their mode of assembly during embryonic development.
“The vascular system is made up of an amazing number of vessels–arteries, veins, capillaries and lymphatic vessels–which together form this incredible vascular tree of life,’ he says.
“These networks are extremely sophisticated and responsible for transporting nutrients, oxygen and waste to and from every cell in your body.”
“If all of a person’s blood and lymph vessels were laid end-to-end, they would reach a length in excess of 100,000km or two and a half times the circumference of the Earth,” says Mat.
“Understanding their organisation in space and time is therefore an incredible challenge.”
In the laboratory, Mat is focused on understanding how abnormalities in the growth and development of the body’s vasculature can lead to disease and disorders including cardiovascular illness, cancer metastasis and inflammatory diseases. He’s doing this by exploring how blood and lymph vessels assemble themselves during early development, looking for genetic clues to help develop future treatments and cures for patients.
Outside of work, Mat has always led an active and sporty life–judo, surfing, sailing and skiing have all been passionate interests.
“It’s the fun sports with a dash of adrenaline together with a high social element that have always appealed to me,” he says.
“Sharing moments and experiences with friends and then being able to relax and recall those experiences has always been important, whether it’s been surfing with a pod of dolphins or the thrill of sailing together through challenging conditions.”
With such a focus on outdoor activities, it comes as no surprise to learn that Mat grew up in the French Territory of Tahiti.
“My parents were teachers and we relocated to Tahiti when I was eight. Living on an island meant that the beach and water activities were always easily accessible and just a part of the natural order of things.”
With two young children now a key priority for Mat, the sports activity has been dialled back a notch but trips to Sydney beaches still feature highly on his family’s agenda. He’s also keen to take his kids to nearby ski fields during winter.
“They’ve yet to experience snow so that’s going to be a great fun new experience for them,” he says.
Learn more about his work at the David Richmond Laboratory for Cardiovascular Development: Gene Regulation and Editing