Mechanobiology of Disease: A Brilliant Day One Afternoon

It was a wonderful day at the Mechanobiology of Disease thematic meeting. Cloudy and sun-less however, the atmosphere was bright! Session 1 and 2 went well and were followed by a sumptuous lunch session.

After a hearty lunch, we proceeded with Session 3. We were treated to an interesting talk by James R. Sellers on Mechanical Properties of Nonmuscle Myosin-2 (NM2) Filaments. The talk was filled with very nice videos of the myosin traversing either parallel or perpendicular to the acin filaments. Interestingly, NM2B molecules could move processively without having to compromise on velocity even as the number of motor domains decreases. On the other hand, NM2A filaments do not move processively but perform better when viscosity of the buffer increases either by adding 0.5% methylcellulose or by forming com-polymeric filaments with NM2B. The world of myosins was very well illustrated in the talk and it was definitely highly informative for anyone who would want to join the lab!

Susan M. Rosenberg’s talk How Bacteria and Cancer Cells Regulate Mutagenesis and Their Ability to Evolve soon followed. Clearly, emerging molecular mechanisms of stress-inducible mutagenesis vary but share common grounds in that mutations are not random. Interestingly, a large gene network that is involved in stress sensing and signalling has been discovered and works in concert to drive evolvability. This was an interesting opinion because it proposes that stress response alone is sufficient for mutagenesis. That was another intriguing talk!

Next up came Marco Foiani with An Integrated ATR, ATM and mTOR Mechanical Network Controlling Nuclear Plasticity. Foiani had raised a fascinating question. How is cell plasticity controlled by the nucleus? It was found that mechanical stimulation of the plasma membrane induced the association of ATR, ATRIP and Chk1to the nuclear envelope during S phase and prophase. Defective ATR and Chk1 meant that genomic integrity was compromised and interestingly, influences were as far reaching as having an effect on cell plasticity and interstitial migration. This, put altogether, suggested the discovery of an integrated mechanical network that was linked with genome integrity, nuclear dynamics and cell plasticity.

Elisa Caberlotto soon followed with Effects of a Soft Massaging Device, Based on an Oscillating Torque, Upon the Expression of Some Dermal Proteins of Human Skin. Influence of Frequency. Ultrafast ultrasound imaging in vitro was used to analyze the propagation of mechanical waves generated by the massaging device. An ex-vivo human skin explant model was used here to show that a non-invasive and well defined oscillation strain applied could have profound biological and structural effects on human skin.

Lastly, Rafi Rashid spoke about A Tale of Two Viscosities: Microviscositiy More Important Than Macroviscosity in a Crowded Microenvironment. It was a fascinating talk about how large polymers could enhance the in vitro differentiation of human mesenchymal stem cells (hMSCs) and promote the deposition of extracellular matrix. These polymers contribute to viscosity, which is a vital property that affects biochemical reactions in the cell. Interestingly, and counterintuitively, it was found that the microviscosity outweighs macroviscosity in the crowded environment. A model describing how reaction rates increase when crowding effects increase was proposed, not forgetting that, microviscosity does not increase amply to decrease reaction rates.

After the talks, everyone proceeded to the coffee break and the much awaited first poster session. Thankfully, I had the liberty of looking around since my presentation was going to be on the third day. The posters looked pretty impressive and day’s presenters were revving to go!

Best wishes to those who have been presenting!





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