The impact of cellular and tissue viscoelasticity on cell migration and morphogenesis

Germ cells upon reaching their migration target at the end of the first day of zebrafish embryonic development.
© Erez Raz

Principal investigators: Cornelia Denz, Erez Raz
Project time: 07/2014 - 06/2017
Project code: FF-2014-09

Physical forces and mechanic properties of cells and tissues play a critical role in cell migration and dynamics, with relevance for tissue homeostasis and development. These issues are especially important during the development of organisms, when a large number of cells specifically migrate within the embryo to generate tissues and organs.

Cell migration is relevant not only during early development, but also for homeostasis as part of the immune response and tissue repair. In addition cell migration plays a positive role, when deregulated cell migration is associated with pathological consequences such as cancer metastasis and inflammation. Determining the physical parameters relevant for cell migration is thus important for understanding processes such as organogenesis and pattern formation in the embryo as well as for the understanding of disease processes where cell movement is involved.

In this project, Prof. Erez Raz from the Institute of Cell Biology and Prof. Cornelia Denz from the Institute of Applied Physics will investigate key mechano-sensitive properties of cells and tissues employing two complementary ex vivo to in vivo models using a novel holographic optical stretcher. They will investigate the elasticity of vessels using ex vivo small mesenteric arteries as a model and will investigate in vivo cell migration employing primordial germ cells (PGC) in zebrafish. To this end, micro beads will be manipulated using holographic optical tweezers in the context of the intact tissue to determine the effect of applying forces on biological material, as well as for measuring cell viscoelasticity and mechanical forces generated by moving cells.

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