Friday March 6, 2009
1 PM
PHO 203

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"Mechanical regulation of biological adhesion"
Dr. Wendy Thomas

One of the challenges at the frontiers of biomechanics today is to understand the molecular basis of mechanobiology, which is the regulation of biological function by mechanical forces. This requires us not just to understand how piconewton forces affect the structure and function of single molecules, but to relate these nanoscale phenomenon to the systems behavior of cells, tissues, organisms, and even engineered biomaterials. We approach this question by using multi-scale simulations in conjunction with experiments that make mechanical measurements at the nano, micro, and macro-scales. In particular, we study the mechanical regulation of biological adhesive molecules which form "catch bonds" that have the counterintuitive but apparently common property that they are longer lived when stressed by tensile force. We have elucidated a possibly universal mechanism of mechanical activation for catch bonds, and model their behavior mathematically in order to incorporate them into multiscale simulations. This has allowed us to understand the adhesive behavior of bacterial, and to incorporate them into a smart nanostructured adhesive that has a myriad of potential applications due to its unusual properties. Like nanoscale locking seatbelts, catch bond adhesives bind only when needed to allow both mobility and protection.

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