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MechanoSys

Cell mechanics are crucial for normal cell function and understanding of pathologic cell behaviour. Within the actin cytoskeleton, cells develop forces that are transmitted via adhesion sites to the extracellular environment. Unfortunately, the functional interactions and molecular mechanisms controlling cell mechanics are incompletely understood due to a lack of methods to quantify cell mechanical functions and due to its inherent complexity. New experimental concepts based on new materials are therefore necessary to simultaneously and quantitatively measure actin cytoskeletal and adhesion site structure and dynamics as well as mechanical force generation with a vastly improved resolution below the micrometer range. Therefore, the aim of this project is to develop, to integrate and to refine experimental and theoretical methods that allows us to study cell mechanics and their dynamics in an integrative systems biology approach. Three main experimental aspects are getting analyzed in parallel.

1) We develop elastomer-based cell substrates (e.g. micropillar substrates, micropatterned films, 3D surface substrates) with optical properties tailored for high-resolution microscopy and for the simultaneous measurement of forces with submicrometer resolution. These substrates enable us to record complex multidimensional data sets.

2) We develop new mathematical and computer models simulating the dynamics of cell mechanical properties and structures based on the architecture of cytoskeleton and cell-matrix contacts. Based on our experimental data this approach ensures that both the cell and its environment become amenable to theoretical analysis.

3) We develop and apply these novel methods in studies on cardiomyocytes and kidney podocytes. Both are key cells in diseases with high socio-economical impact, i.e. myocardial infarction and chronic kidney disease. Furthermore, both cell types display specific cytoskeletal as well as adhesion structures making them to ideal candidates for a comparative systems biological approach. The deep understanding is complemented by mechanical analyses on knock-down and mutant cells.

We bring together experts from different fields (biophysics, materials science, physical chemistry, mathematical modeling, medicine, cell biology and industrial partner) to get a deep understanding of cell mechanics on the systems level and to ensure that the methods developed are getting translated into commercial high-end products.
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Programme - Partners - Aims - Publications - Meetings

last change 11.01.2013 | Wolfgang Rubner | Imprint