Subra Suresh has spent the last two decades studying the mechanical properties of engineered materials from the atomic to the structural scale. So, until recently, the head of MITs Department of Materials Science and Engineering never thought hed be a player in the hunt for cures to malaria and pancreatic cancer.
It turns out, however, that Sureshs expertise in nanotechnology is quite applicable to biology and medicine. With colleagues in engineering, science and medicine at MIT, the National University of Singapore (NUS) and the universities of Heidelberg and Ulm in Germany, he has adapted state-of-the-art tools for the study of the mechanical properties of materials to the study of living cells.
Now, in the January 2005 issue of Acta Biomaterialia, the researchers report the most complete and quantitative characterization yet of how a healthy human blood cell changes its shape, or deforms, upon being invaded by the malaria-inducing parasite Plasmodium falciparum. In the same article, the researchers show how the deformation of human pancreatic cancer cells in response to certain naturally occurring biomolecules may affect the metastasis of that disease. Ultimately, the work could lead to better treatments for these and other diseases.
Elizabeth A. Thomson | MIT News Office
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