Nano and Micromechanics of Biological Tissues - Delphine Dean
From Katie Gentilello
Using a variety of experimental techniques and modeling approaches, the mechanical properties of biological tissues can be characterized over a large range of length scales. One can look at interactions between molecules (nanoscale), cellular mechanics (microscale), or bulk tissue properties (macroscale). In this talk, I will discuss several projects in which the nanomechanical properties and interactions of a variety of biological tissues are characterized. We will discuss several results where we characterized directly individual cardiovascular cell mechanical properties as a function of microenvironment. We used atomic force microscopy (AFM) in conjunction with confocal microscopy to directly measure cell mechanical properties and interactions. For instance, we measured the effect of matrix composition and structure on cardiac cell mechanical properties in vitro. The extracellular matrix can modulate cell mechanical properties and these microenvironmental cues can lead to changes in cell phenotype and function. In our study, cells were shown to stiffen depending on the type of the underlying protein (e.g., collagen vs. fibronectin) as well as whether the matrix was randomly oriented or aligned. By creating engineered microenvironments using lithographic and nanoparticle techniques, we can design experiments that will determine the dependence of cell mechanical function on environmental factors. Our eventual goal is to build better models of the cardiac and vascular cell mechanical environment.