Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

The mechanics of tissue growth

24.09.2014

Pitt, Carnegie Mellon engineers combine mechanics with biology to make key discovery about communication between cells.

When the body forms new tissues during the healing process, cells must be able to communicate with each other. For years, scientists believed this communication happened primarily through chemical signaling. Now researchers at Carnegie Mellon University and the University of Pittsburgh have found that another dimension – mechanical communication – is equally if not more crucial. The findings, published in this week's issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, could lead to advancements in treatments for birth defects and therapies for cancer patients.

"It's like 19th century scientists discovering that electricity and magnetism were the same force," said Lance Davidson, associate professor of Bioengineering at the University of Pittsburgh, who co-led the study. "The key here is using mechanical engineering tools and frameworks to reverse-engineer how these biological systems work, thereby giving us a better chance to develop methods that affect this cellular communication process and potentially treat various diseases related to tissue growth."

"We answered this very important biological question by building a new tool that enabled us to see these mechanical processes at the cellular level," said Philip LeDuc, professor of Mechanical Engineering at Carnegie Mellon, who co-led the study with Davidson. The researchers developed a microfluidic control system that delivers chemicals at extremely low flow rates over very small, specific areas, such as integrated collections of individual cells. They hypothesized that in addition to using chemical signals to communicate with each other, embryonic or regenerative cells also used mechanical processes – pushing and pulling on each other – to stimulate and respond.

"In order to identify these mechanical processes, we really had to control small parts of a multi-cellular tissue, which today's technology can finally allow us to do," Davidson explained. For example, a tissue sample two millimeters across may contain up to 8,000 cells. The microfluidic device enables researchers to "touch" as few as three or four and view the mechanical processes using a high resolution laser scanning microscope to view proteins moving in cells.

"We proved that mechanical processes are absolutely important along with chemical," LeDuc said. When the researchers disabled the mechanical connections between the cells using microfluidics, the ability of cells to communicate with each other dropped substantially. Although the cells communicated through chemical signaling as well, the cells' mechanical connections – their ability to push and pull on each other – were dominant in transmitting the signals.

Understanding this additional dimension could impact future research in tissue regeneration, from embryonic development to healing to cancer growth.

"If you are dealing with someone who has a birth defect, and their heart didn't form correctly, the question is how do you target it?" LeDuc asked. "This discovery leads us to believe there is a mechanical way to influence tissue development and one day help the cells better communicate with each other to heal the body."

###

Other researchers included YongTae Kim, now an assistant professor of biotechnology at Georgia Institute of Technology; Sagar D. Joshi, now a research scientist at Air Liquide; William C. Messner, now the Department Chair and Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Tufts University School of Engineering; Carnegie Mellon Research Assistants Melis Hazar Haghgoui and Jiho Song; and Pitt research assistants Timothy R. Jackson and Deepthi Vijayraghavan.

About Carnegie Mellon University:

Carnegie Mellon is a private, internationally ranked university with programs in areas ranging from science, technology and business to public policy, the humanities and the arts. More than 12,000 students in the university's seven schools and colleges benefit from a small faculty-to-student ratio and an education characterized by its focus on creating and implementing solutions for real world problems, interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation. A global university, Carnegie Mellon's campus in the United States is in Pittsburgh, Pa. It has campuses in California's Silicon Valley, Qatar, and programs in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and Mexico.

Contact: Paul Kovach
University of Pittsburgh
412-624-0265

About the Swanson School of Engineering

The University of Pittsburgh's Swanson School of Engineering is one of the oldest engineering programs in the United States and is consistently ranked among the top 50 engineering programs nationally. The Swanson School has excelled in basic and applied research during the past decade and is on the forefront of 21st century technology including sustainability, energy systems, bioengineering, micro- and nanosystems, computational modeling, and advanced materials development. Approximately 120 faculty members serve more than 2,600 undergraduate and graduate students and Ph.D. candidates in six departments, including Bioengineering, Chemical and Petroleum Engineering, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Industrial Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, and Materials Science.

Paul Kovach | Eurek Alert!

More articles from Interdisciplinary Research:

nachricht How do muscle and tendon connections last a lifetime? Study in the fruit fly Drosophila
04.04.2019 | Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster

nachricht The Internet of Things: TU Graz researchers increase the dependability of smart systems
18.02.2019 | Technische Universität Graz

All articles from Interdisciplinary Research >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Explosion on Jupiter-sized star 10 times more powerful than ever seen on our sun

A stellar flare 10 times more powerful than anything seen on our sun has burst from an ultracool star almost the same size as Jupiter

  • Coolest and smallest star to produce a superflare found
  • Star is a tenth of the radius of our Sun
  • Researchers led by University of Warwick could only see...

Im Focus: Quantum simulation more stable than expected

A localization phenomenon boosts the accuracy of solving quantum many-body problems with quantum computers which are otherwise challenging for conventional computers. This brings such digital quantum simulation within reach on quantum devices available today.

Quantum computers promise to solve certain computational problems exponentially faster than any classical machine. “A particularly promising application is the...

Im Focus: Largest, fastest array of microscopic 'traffic cops' for optical communications

The technology could revolutionize how information travels through data centers and artificial intelligence networks

Engineers at the University of California, Berkeley have built a new photonic switch that can control the direction of light passing through optical fibers...

Im Focus: A long-distance relationship in femtoseconds

Physicists observe how electron-hole pairs drift apart at ultrafast speed, but still remain strongly bound.

Modern electronics relies on ultrafast charge motion on ever shorter length scales. Physicists from Regensburg and Gothenburg have now succeeded in resolving a...

Im Focus: Researchers 3D print metamaterials with novel optical properties

Engineers create novel optical devices, including a moth eye-inspired omnidirectional microwave antenna

A team of engineers at Tufts University has developed a series of 3D printed metamaterials with unique microwave or optical properties that go beyond what is...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

VideoLinks
Industry & Economy
Event News

Revered mathematicians and computer scientists converge with 200 young researchers in Heidelberg!

17.04.2019 | Event News

First dust conference in the Central Asian part of the earth’s dust belt

15.04.2019 | Event News

Fraunhofer FHR at the IEEE Radar Conference 2019 in Boston, USA

09.04.2019 | Event News

 
Latest News

New automated biological-sample analysis systems to accelerate disease detection

18.04.2019 | Life Sciences

Explosion on Jupiter-sized star 10 times more powerful than ever seen on our sun

18.04.2019 | Physics and Astronomy

New eDNA technology used to quickly assess coral reefs

18.04.2019 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>