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Forum to focus on math and mechanics behind life processes
Date:6/6/2008

ANN ARBOR, Mich.---Developing fundamental math and mechanics to explain life processes like embryo development, cellular migration and growth could open doors to a new frontier in biology, many researchers say.

A group of these scientists and engineers will gather in Woods Hole, Mass. June 18-21 for the Symposium on Cellular, Molecular and Tissue Mechanics. The University of Michigan is leading the organization of this event.

Symposium participants will present current research on ways mechanics is being used to study and explain biology. Mechanics, one of the earliest branches of physics, is the study of how forces affect matter. It appears that faint pushes and pulls play a much larger role in cellular signaling than previously thought, researchers say.

"The dominant view in biology has been that cellular behavior is largely chemistry-driven, but there's a growing recognition of something else at work. A lot of what the cell does is mechanical. It needs to move things around. It migrates," said Krishna Garikipati, an associate professor in the U-M Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Michigan Center for Theoretical Physics.

For a few decades, biophysicists and other scientists have been examining these forces that measure just one-trillionth of the weight of an average person. But now engineers are getting involved, as the tools of nanotechnology allow them to observe with greater detail and advancements in tissue engineering demand a greater understanding of biology.

"People have known for a long time that mechanics is important, but very little work has been done to nail down what's going on at the cellular level," said Jacques Dumais, associate professor of organismic and evolutionary biology at Harvard University. At the symposium, Dumais will present research on the mechanics of cell growth in plants and fungi.

Dumais says more researchers are looking to math now as a way to connect and comb
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Contact: Nicole Casal Moore
ncmoore@umich.edu
734-647-1838
University of Michigan
Source:Eurekalert

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