• brenucsb twitter avatar
    Too hot to fly? #Climate change may take a toll on air travel https://t.co/EU2g3ujxfy @nytclimate
    2 hours 1 min ago
  • brenucsb twitter avatar
    Conference at #UCSB gathered academics & activists to discuss the future of environmental activism https://t.co/s3ifq2Zvgu @hahriehan
    6 hours 1 min ago
  • ucsantabarbara twitter avatar
    Here's a #360video featuring some of our favorite moments from #UCSB2017 Commencement weekend. Give it a whirl. https://t.co/ZqvYImcrFa
    7 hours 6 min ago
  • ucsantabarbara twitter avatar
    Congrats to Terence Keel, assistant professor of history & Black studies, for receiving the Harold J. Plous Award! https://t.co/XVsF0XbHRz
    7 hours 30 min ago
  • brenucsb twitter avatar
    This weekend: Come to the 'Zero Waste' used clothing sale in Isla Vista to support local orgs & the environment https://t.co/2Szngvv040
    1 day 30 min ago
  • UCSB_GradPost twitter avatar
    Learn more about experiential education on July 6 https://t.co/wjxYx0R2Cz #UCSB #ucsbgradpost
    1 day 1 hour ago
  • UCSB_GradPost twitter avatar
    The GRIT series is back and kicks off Monday, June 26 https://t.co/dncJAETj2N #UCSB #ucsbgradpost
    1 day 1 hour ago
  • UCSBengineering twitter avatar
    RT @PhotonicsMedia: Efficient, cost-effective approach to building #OLEDs https://t.co/HisRzZNkxQ @DowChemical @reddit_ucsb @UCSBengineerin
    1 day 4 hours ago

A New Cellular Frontier

Mechanical engineering professor Otger Campàs receives National Science Foundation Early Career Award
Wednesday, January 11, 2017 - 11:45
Santa Barbara, CA
Otger Campas's mechanobiology and tissue morphology research

Magnetic drop.jpg

magnetic drop

By exposing a magnetically responsive droplet (purple) to a magnetic field, the scientists are able to exert pressure on the surrounding embryonic cells in order to study their response to mechanical forces

Photo Credit: 

Courtesy Image

Drop3D_MesCells_stress_nobox (2).jpg

Image of 3D reconstruction of oil droplet

A 3D reconstruction of a droplet deformed by cellular forces. The colors on the droplet surface indicate the value of the forces at each point. The larger the force, the larger the droplet deformation

Photo Credit: 

Figure by Otger Campas

What if you could find another way to fight cancer by approaching it from an engineering perspective, acting on the cellular process by which tissues harden into tumors? Or how about circumventing a host of heart diseases by preventing, perhaps even reversing, the actual stiffening of cardiovascular tissue?

First you’d have to understand how cells sense and respond to their mechanical environment within tissues and tumors, processes that remain largely unknown — at least for the moment — according to UC Santa Barbara mechanical engineering professor Otger Campàs. For his efforts in developing tools to explore the little-known territory of the mechanical aspect of cellular development Campàs has received a National Science Foundation (NSF) Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award.

“It’s an honor,” said Campàs, who holds the UCSB Mellichamp Endowed Chair in Systems Biology and Bioengineering. “I know very talented young scientists and engineers who have gotten this award, so it’s a privilege to become part of that group.”

The five-year, $500,000 award for “decoding the mechanical control of tissue growth” will assist Campàs and his team in gaining a better understanding of how cells perceive and respond to mechanical forces around them. That knowledge could, in turn, be tied back to the biochemical and genetic information cells exchange with each other, for an even clearer and more in-depth picture of how organisms grow and develop.

“You have millions of cells in your body; how do they know how to build a specific structure in a three-dimensional space?” he said. “This is actually what we’re trying to understand.” It’s a process that can’t be observed in petri dishes and test tubes, because genetics and biochemistry aside, developing cells rely also on mechanical forces in their natural 3D environment — that is, surrounded by other cells and tissue structures — to “decide” what to develop into.

“Cells also use their ‘sense of touch’ to sculpt organs into functional structures,” Campàs explained. But there was no tool to measure the tiny forces developing cells in the organism exert or perceive that take them on their developmental pathways toward the various cell types they become.

So he and his team made some. Using oil-based and also ferromagnetic microdroplets, the researchers devised ways to precisely apply and measure mechanical forces on cells in developing fish and mouse embryos, leading to the first cell-scale measurements of mechanics of tissue growth in living organisms.

“An organ is a ‘machine’ that performs specific functions,” Campàs said. All organs are three-dimensional structures whose functions are largely determined by their mechanical properties and their shapes, he explained. Finding out how the material sculpts itself into the machine will not only contribute to fundamental knowledge in biology, it could also provide valuable insight on anomalous conditions of cellular mechanics, such as the formation of tumors and fibroids, or the hardening of arteries and what mechanically causes those phenomena. This emerging perspective could eventually hasten or make more sophisticated treatments for the many and various diseases and symptoms associated with cellular mechanics.

The NSF’s Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) program offers the organization’s most prestigious awards in support of junior faculty who exemplify the role of teacher-scholars through outstanding research, excellent education and the integration of education and research within the context of the mission of their organizations. Such activities are intended to build a firm foundation for a lifetime of leadership in integrating education and research.

Contact Info: 

Sonia Fernandez
(805) 893-4765
sonia.fernandez@ucsb.edu

Topics: 

Editor's Picks