Department of

Chemical Engineering

Designing molecular technology for the 21st century with biology and chemistry


Spring 2010 Seminars

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Mechanical regulation of epithelial-mesenchymal transition



Esther Gomez
Department of Chemical Engineering
Princeton University

Thursday, March 18, 2010
9:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.
14 Life Sciences Building

Abstract
Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), a phenotypic change in which epithelial cells detach from their neighbors and become motile, is important in embryonic development and is co-opted in pathological conditions including fibrosis and cancer.

It is well recognized that soluble signals such as growth factors and cytokines stimulate EMT. Recently, we have shown that EMT can also be regulated by mechanical signals. Through the use of microfabricated two-dimensional tissues of defined shape and size, we show that tissue geometry and gradients in mechanical stress define the spatial locations at which EMT occurs.

I will also discuss how cell shape and the mechanical properties of the matrix surrounding cells are critical determinants of epithelial cell fate. Culturing cells on soft substrata, with compliances comparable to that of the normal mammary gland, protects against EMT, whereas culturing cells on stiffer substrata, with compliances comparable to that of the average breast tumor, promotes EMT.

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