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Cellular Mechanobiology

Principal Investigator: Tom Franz

Mechanobiology is an emerging field that focuses on the way in which physical forces and changes in cell or tissue mechanics contribute to development, physiology, and disease. A major challenge is understanding mechanotransduction, the molecular mechanism by which cells sense and respond to mechanical signals. The lack of mechanistic understanding of these processes is one of the primary foci of this field, which, as a consequence, has enormous potential to

  • Bring upon critical new insights into physiological function and aetiology of disease and
  • Lead to multiple innovations in the coming years, both for biomedicine and biotechnology.

Elucidating the relationship between mechanical environment and biological response offers a prime target for halting some disease mechanisms, initiating remodelling for engineered tissues, potentially differentiating stem cells, and clarifying how these transduced mechanical signals differ throughout our lifetime. While medicine has typically looked for the genetic basis of disease, first advances in mechanobiology suggest that changes in cell mechanics, extracellular matrix structure, or mechanotransduction may contribute to the development of many diseases, including heart failure, cancer, atherosclerosis, osteoporosis and asthma. Insights into the mechanical basis of tissue regulation may also lead to development of improved medical devices, biomaterials, and engineered tissues.

Computational Mechanics of Single Cells and Sub-cellular Components

T Abdalrahman, NH Davies, T Franz

Tissue regeneration is based on the function and differentiation of cells. For a long time, research on cell differentiation and tissue regeneration focused mainly at the biochemical stimulus of cells. The important role of the physical environment on signalling, differentiation and function of cells has been recognised only recently. As a consequence, scaffold-based tissue regeneration evolved empirically without a clear deduction of principles required for a rational design approach. This research focuses at the mechanical interactions of single cells in controlled physical environments using computational modelling and complementary experimental methods.

Finite element model of a single fibroblast illustrating the strain distribution in the cell when subjected to uniaxial stretch of the substrate (left: top view, right: bottom view).

Mathematical Modelling of Growth-factor Induced Cell Migration in Engineered Matrices

R Ahmed, T Abdalrahman, NH Davies, T Franz

The aim of this research is to develop a mathematical model for the chemo-mechanical induced migration of cells based on growth-factor gradients on and in engineered extracellular matrices.