December 2, 2016
Animal cells do remarkable things at micro-meter scales. When embedded within 3D extracellular matrices (ECM), animal cells constantly probe and adapt to the ECM locally (at cell length scale) and exert forces and communicate with other cells globally (up to 10 times of cell length). It is now well accepted that the crosstalk between animal cells and their microenvironment critically regulate cell function such as migration, proliferation and differentiation. Disruption of the cell-ECM crosstalk is implicated in a number of pathologic processes including tumor progression and fibrosis. Central to the problem of cell–ECM crosstalk is the physical force that cells generate, which mediates the cell – ECM interaction. In this presentation, I will describe efforts in my lab (biofluidics.bee.cornell.edu) in understanding how biophysical forces regulate cell-ECM interaction using microfluidic models as well as a 3D traction force microscopy. We demonstrate that the nonlinear elasticity (or strain stiffening) of collagen matrix enables a long range cell – ECM force transmission facilitating cell – cell communication. I will also talk about a second story in which we learn that interstitial fluid flow regulates tumor cell motility types when invading within collagen matrices using microfluidic models. Our work highlights the importance of biophysical forces in regulating tumor cell invasion.
Mingming Wu received her PhD in Physics from the Ohio State University in the US in 1992, and was a postdoctoral researcher at Ecole Polytechnique in France in year 1992 and University of California at Santa Barbara in 1993- 1995. She became an assistant/associate professor in the physics department at Occidental College in Los Angeles in year 1996-2003. She joined Cornell College of Engineering in year 2003. Starting 2012, she became an associate professor in the Department of Biological and Environmental Engineering at Cornell University.
The Biolfuidics Lab at Cornell seeks a quantitative understanding of the biophysical principles that nature uses to build and control living systems at the micro- and nano- meter scale, in particular through their interactions with fluids. The problems we choose lie in the broad direction of microscale biological engineering, and are motivated by contemporary problems in the health industry and the environmental engineering. Current research focus is on roles of microenvironment in cellular dynamics with applications in cancer metastasis and environmental microbiology. An equally important thrust of the lab is on the development of micro – and nano- scale engineering tools and advanced dynamic imaging techniques for probing the dynamics of living systems at the cellular and tissue levels.