A mathematical model of growth could help researchers understand, for example, how a synthetic tissue will interact with the body and change over time.
Cell-generated forces could be involved in many processes, including the spread of cancer in the body. Cells' ability to migrate is central to cancer metastasis. Perhaps there's a way to mechanically prevent the spread of cancer, Garikipati said.
Garikipati will present research that suggests there are simple but universal ways that cells exploit forces to control the growth and motion of focal adhesions, sticky feet that cells develop to help them attach and navigate. They are believed to help guide the differentiation of stem cells into various types of tissues in an embryo.
How mechanics and chemistry work together in embryo formation and growth is a central question of developmental biology, says Larry Taber, a professor of biomedical engineering at Washington University in St. Louis. Taber develops computational models to study the role of mechanical forces in the formation of tissues and organs in embryos. He will present related research at the symposium.
"Some people think that the genes turn on in certain ways and cells just obey," Taber said. "But the genes aren't quite that smart. They may start a process, but then mechanics and chemistry may take over."
A gene may cause a part of a cell to contract, for example. The cells next to it feel that stress and respond to it, perhaps contracting too and generating stress that more cells feel. This stress could act as a signal. In embryo development, Taber said, cells tend to take the shape of an organ, such as a heart, before they differentiate into the proper type of tissue.
Taber is seeking a mechanical so
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University of Michigan