Mechanical adaptation of motile cells in development and immune response

Cancer cells (green), invading a surrounding collagen I (red) matrix (bar: 20µm)
© Timo Betz

Principal investigators: Timo Betz
Project time: 07/2015 - 10/2017
Project code: FF-2015-01

Cell motility is a fundamental biological process, required for correct development of organisms as well as an immune response. But it is also at the basis of the formation of metastatic cancer. To move cells control their intracellular mechanics by well-orchestrated cytoskeletal polymerization and contractility of the acto-myosin cortex as well as stress fiber contraction. In this project we aim to understand the mechanical properties such as force generation and intracellular stiffness that is required for the correct movement of different cells in the organism. The experiments will use optical tweezers, UV microsurgery and micropipette aspiration to directly measure the forces produced by migrating cells, as well as the intracellular stiffness changes of cells. A focus is placed on cells migrating through developing organisms, but also on immune cells that are on their way through the body to fight pathogens.