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BME Seminar Series: Cynthia Reinhart-King, Ph.D.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015
8:30 a.m.
Goergen Hall 101 (Sloan Auditorium)

"A Leaky Pipeline: Cellular Mechanobiology in Atherosclerosis and Tumor Angiogenesis"

Cynthia Reinhart-King, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Department of Biomedical Engineering
Cornell University

Abstract: The physical and chemical properties of the extracellular environment provide specific cues to resident cells to maintain tissue structure and function. Disruption of these cues can lead to aberrant cell behaviors and disease progression. In this seminar, I will discuss my lab’s work investigating how disruption of the physical properties of the extracellular environment can alter endothelial cell phenotype during both atherosclerosis progression and tumor angiogenesis.  We employ tailored biomaterials, microfabricated systems and in vivo models to investigate the role of the mechanical properties of the extracellular matrix in dictating vascular architecture and function. We have found that increased matrix stiffness, mimicking the changes that occur with age and tumor progression, drives increased endothelial cell contractility. Altered cellular mechanical forces lead to changes in cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions that contribute to disorganized tissue structure, hallmarks of both atherosclerosis and tumor angiogenesis.  Importantly, our data suggest that targeting changes in cellular contractility may be one potential pathway to maintaining tissue architecture and preventing disease progression.