Navigation Links
Exploring Life and Death of Cells, Worcester Polytechnic Institute Biomedical Engineer’s Research Could Lead to Better Understanding of Cancer, Heart Disease
Date:3/18/2019

With a three-year, $446,563 collaborative grant from the National Science Foundation, Kristen Billiar, professor and head of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI), hopes to close an important gap in our understanding of physical factors that help regulate the life and death of cells in our bodies, and the important roles they play in the development of a wide range of disorders—from heart disease to cancer.

In particular, Billiar, who works in the growing research field of mechanobiology, will explore how mechanical forces and stresses affect programmed cell death. Also known as apoptosis, programmed cell death is an essential part of normal growth and development. But when cells don’t die as they should, the result can be pathologies like arteriosclerosis, autoimmune diseases, and lung fibrosis.

Billiar says a cell’s mechanical environment plays a deciding role in either initiating or inhibiting programmed cell death. And with the NSF award, he will work to identify the precise mechanical stimuli and the cell signaling networks that initiate normal cell death by looking at how cell size, shape, stiffness, and specific outside stresses affect the cell and its ability to die normally.

Billiar is working with co-principle investigators Nima Rahbar, associate professor of civil & environmental engineering at WPI; Qi Wen, associate professor of physics at WPI; and Dannel McCollum, professor of biochemistry and molecular pharmacology at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

“There’s a critical gap in our understanding of the specific mechanical signals and mechanisms that trigger programmed cell death,” said Billiar, who was recently elected a fellow of the Biomedical Engineering Society. “This research is significant because it is foundational work that one day could have applications for many different diseases.”

By better understanding what affects normal cell death, Billiar says it may be possible to regulate it by developing medications that leverage the mechanical properties of molecules and cells. These mechanomedicines could prevent or cure a list of diseases and conditions, ranging from cancer and heart valve stenosis to fibrosis and muscular and organ atrophy.

In a healthy adult body, the number of cells stays relatively constant. While millions of new cells are produced every second, millions of others die through apoptosis. A controlled and normal way to remove unwanted and unneeded cells, apoptosis is required for a variety of processes in the body, including wound healing.

Through their normal functioning, most cells experience mechanical forces, like pressure or stretching. They respond to these stresses by migrating, proliferating, and even contracting like muscle fibers. A number of processes, including wound healing, seem to produce areas of high and low stress. How these differences in mechanical stimuli influence a cell’s biological functions, including enabling or impeding cell death, is not well understood.

Billiar says he believes that apoptosis is more likely to take place in areas of low stress, and may be connected to the dissolution of actin fibers, known as stress fibers, that seem to enable a cell to detect mechanical forces. The lack of apoptosis in high stress areas may result in the overgrowth of cells, a phenomenon associated with cancer and fibrosis. He will test his hypothesis by systematically changing the mechanical environment of individual cells and cell clusters and then examining how the cells sense those changes and respond through biochemical signals.

Billiar also will study how stresses are generated and transferred through cell populations. He says they do not appear to spread uniformly, creating some areas of high stress and others of low stress. In some processes, including wound healing, these varying forces may allow the body to rebuild and remodel tissue without ending up with an overabundance of cells. But in other processes, such as tumor growth, cells don’t seem to respond normally to these mechanical cues.

“Can you change how a cell senses its environment or how it interprets what it’s sensing?” he asked. “I want to understand the mechanisms for how they sense and understand signals from other cells and from the mechanical environment. Cancer cells are not going through normal cell death. They are ignoring mechanical cues. Some mechanical forces could inhibit apoptosis. What are those relationships? What if we could enhance or block the mechanical signal and cause normal cell death?”

The WPI research team has developed a number of model systems they will use to study the relationship between cell geometry (such as size and membrane curvature), stress parameters, and apoptosis. Unlike most cell studies that are conducted using stiff plastic substrates, the model systems in Billiar’s lab mimic the topography and surrounding forces that naturally exist in the body. “In my lab," he said, "we try to recreate these kinds of natural environments.”

About Worcester Polytechnic Institute

WPI, a global leader in project-based learning, is a distinctive, top-tier technological university founded in 1865 on the principle that students learn most effectively by applying the theory learned in the classroom to the practice of solving real-world problems. Recognized by the National Academy of Engineering with the 2016 Bernard M. Gordon Prize for Innovation in Engineering and Technology Education, WPI’s pioneering project-based curriculum engages undergraduates in solving important scientific, technological, and societal problems throughout their education and at more than 50 project centers around the world. WPI offers more than 50 bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degree programs across 14 academic departments in science, engineering, technology, business, the social sciences, and the humanities and arts. Its faculty and students pursue groundbreaking research to meet ongoing challenges in health and biotechnology; robotics and the internet of things; advanced materials and manufacturing; cyber, data, and security systems; learning science; and more. http://www.wpi.edu

Contact:
Alison Duffy, Director of Public Relations
Worcester Polytechnic Institute
Worcester, Massachusetts
508-831-6656, amduffy(at)wpi(dot)edu

Read the full story at https://www.prweb.com/releases/exploring_life_and_death_of_cells_worcester_polytechnic_institute_biomedical_engineers_research_could_lead_to_better_understanding_of_cancer_heart_disease/prweb16177128.htm.


'/>"/>
Source: PRWeb
Copyright©2019 Vocus, Inc.
All rights reserved


Related medicine news :

1. Exploring the Aurum Group on Innovations TV Series
2. LabRoots Presents an Educational Webinar Exploring the Clinical Relevance of Vitamin D Metabolites
3. Innovations Episode Exploring Recent Advances in Society, Airing 1/28/2017
4. Author Janet Morrison’s newly released “Fred and the Happy Face Spider” is the continuing adventure of Fred the service dog, this time exploring in Hawaii with Jan.
5. Exploring the Latest Medical Technologies, as Innovations TV Show Features Stem Cell Theranostics
6. The Prem Rawat Foundation and the Tutu Foundation UK Partner on Forum Exploring Peace Education, Reconciliation, Prison Reform and Breaking the Cycle of Crime
7. Exploring the Latest Breakthroughs in Medical Marijuana, Innovations Series to Feature Amercanex in Upcoming Episode
8. Catalent Institute Announces Educational Workshop Series Exploring Dose Form Selection in Early Phase Development
9. Publish Academy - Review Exploring Anik Singal's New Digital Publishing Training Course Released
10. RevitaRUGS to sponsor Exploring Design Ecology at the ASID Design Matters Forum at REALM, in South Norwalk, Connecticut, on May 20th, 4 to 9 pm
11. Social Engineering Experts Launch Book Exploring the Deceptive Art of Phishing
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
(Date:4/2/2020)... ... April 02, 2020 , ... The Northern Virginia Community College Educational Foundation (NOVA ... Coffman Howe of Palm Beach, Florida. Ms. Howe is adding to her existing ... nursing is more important than ever given the current pandemic. Ms. Howe has also ...
(Date:4/1/2020)... ... 01, 2020 , ... According to data released by Power to Decide ... of publicly funded contraception live in counties impacted by the implementation of the Title ... some or all of their Title X resources. , The domestic gag rule ...
(Date:3/30/2020)... ... 30, 2020 , ... Achieve Medical Center now offers ... comprehensive and compassionate mental health and wellness services in the midst of the ... telemedicine services including initial consultations, evaluations, and follow-up care. It also allows patients ...
(Date:3/28/2020)... ... March 27, 2020 , ... To help prevent the ... telemedicine as an alternative approach to seeing their patients. This approach will allow ... of their own home or office using video conference and telecommunications technology, such ...
(Date:3/27/2020)... ... 27, 2020 , ... On March 27th, 2020, Talos Health Solutions , ... their families and caregivers living in the US. This free online conference will be ... 2020, and will focus on asthma symptoms, the different kinds of asthma, treatment options, ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:3/22/2020)... Tenn. (PRWEB) , ... March 21, 2020 , ... Since ... and the surrounding area. As concerns heighten over the spread of COVID-19, Gwatney Mazda ... while still supplementing the transportation needs of the Memphis community. , The dealership’s ...
(Date:3/20/2020)... (PRWEB) , ... March 20, 2020 , ... Today, in ... statewide to address the COVID-19 public health emergency, Mercy Medical Center sought ... to construct a new 32-bed acute care unit on the 17th floor of the ...
(Date:3/19/2020)... ... March 19, 2020 , ... Combining ... effective as single food immunotherapy, according to research scheduled for presentation at the ... was cancelled due to the situation with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). , ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: