3D Nanoscopy and Nanomechanics linking Heterocellular Signals to Biophysical Phenotype

Prof. Dr. Peter Kohl (CIBSS-AI), Institute for Experimental Cardiovascular Medicine (University Heart Center, Faculty of Medicine)

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The rigidity of the cell environment determines cell structure and function. Cardiac tissue rigidity varies one very heart-beat, and it is altered during development / ageing or upon cardiac tissue damage. How cardiac cells adapt to dynamic changes in tissue stiffness is not well-known. This project aims at characterising the kinetics of fibroblast adaptation to dynamic changes in the stiffness of their growth substrate, and the impact of these changes on neighbouring cardiomyocytes. To achieve these aims, advanced biomaterials and genetically-encoded tension probes will be combined. The use of a hydrogel with light-tunable mechanical properties (collaboration with Prof Weber, CIBSS Centre for Integrative Biological Signalling Studies) will allow us to change the stiffness locally, with high spatial and temporal resolution, while studying cell mechanics (by nano-indentation) and electrophysiology (by optical mapping). Our goal is to identify molecular targets capable of controlling mechano-sensitive cell signalling in the context of cardiac injury.