Solid-state micromechanical regulation of tumor and stem cell biology in the central nervous system

11/02/2009 - 5:00pm to 6:00pm
Dr. Sanjay Kumar, UC Berkeley assistant professor of bioengineering

One of the most exciting breakthroughs in cell biology over the past decade is the recognition that micromechanical inputs to cells from the solid-state extracellular matrix (ECM), including those encoded in ECM geometry, topography, and elasticity, can influence cell and tissue physiology and pathology in profound and specific ways.  This connection between mechanics and biology (mechanobiology) bears direct relevance to the pathogenesis of diseases of the nervous system in which cells alter their structure, motility, or compliance, including neuronal and glial tumors and neurodegenerative disorders, and suggests that specific cell behaviors may be engineered by directly manipulating the underlying molecular systems.  I will discuss efforts my colleagues and I have taken to harness the potential of mechanobiological crosstalk between cells and the ECM to understand and manipulate tumor and stem cell biology in the nervous system.  I will describe studies in which we elucidate the role of physical cues from the ECM in driving cell structure, cytoskeletal organization, cell migration, and proliferation in malignant brain tumors.  I will also discuss our efforts to engineer the differentiation trajectories of neural stem cells by manipulating the biophysical properties of the ECM and the mechanotransductive signaling pathways that enable cells to mechanically communicate with the ECM.

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