Universiteit Leiden

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Research project

Single cell technologies for mechanobiology and mechanopharmacology

Mechanobiology is a major area in biology, however, mechanics is currently a missing element in drug development pipelines. This has led to a high cost for the society. Mechanotoxicity of drugs often appears as a long-term side effect of drugs, and has led to removal of drugs from the market. Furthermore, monitoring mechanical biomarkers is essential in many diseases, including cancer, infection, and muscular dystrophy. Many human cells including immune cells, vascular cells, and muscle cells are mechanically active. Mechanically active cancer cells metastasize to distant organs, which may lead to death. Drugs that modulate cellular mechanics can thus be designed and used to treat these mechano-pathologies.

Alireza Mashaghi Tabari

Our ambition at MSBB is to develop and use innovative technologies that allow mechanical analysis of biological systems down to single cell and single organelle resolution. 

MSBB is equipped with advanced single cell technologies including state-of-the art optical tweezers, acoustic force spectroscopy and CellHesion.

Furthermore, we use micro-engineered chips and micropillar array systems to learn about mechanics of cells and tissues. Mechanically heterogenous cells can also be sampled using a special microsampler available at MSBB and the cellular content can then be subjected to high resolution chemical analysis. 

This innovative single cell platform will help us to understand the mechanisms of disease and will open up our way towards research into mechano-pharmacology.

Further reading

Tom Evers, Liam Holt, Simon Alberti, Alireza Mashaghi, Reciprocal regulation of cellular mechanics and metabolism. Nature Metabolism 3, 456–468 (2021)

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