An award is made to UCLA to develop a high throughput Mechanotyping Platform (MTP). Mechanical properties of cells and nuclei are implicated in a wide range of biological contexts: they are central for determining how physical forces alter gene expression, and more broadly they can signal a transformation in a cell?s physiological state, such as in malignant transformation. However, to advance our fundamental understanding of the mechanisms underlying cell/nuclear mechanical properties requires probing the mechanical properties of cells and nuclei across genetic and physical phase space; this demands measurements of a large number of samples and single cells which cannot be achieved on a feasible timescale using existing methods. MTP offers dramatic improvements over current techniques in time, cost, and user-accessibility, and is comprised of two independent technologies: (1) High Throughput Mechanical Screening (HTMS) instrumentation simultaneously probes the deformability of hundreds of individual samples by subjecting them to external stresses, forcing them to deform through micron-scale pores, and determining the number of passaged cells; this provides a physiologically relevant assay to detect relative mechanical changes that have direct implications for the circulation and perfusion of cells through vasculature and tissues. (2) A Mechanical Probing System (MaPS) measures elastic moduli directly from single cells and nuclei at rates of 100 per second by flowing cells through a microfluidic channel, poking the cell with a force probe embedded in the channel, and determining the resultant deformation; this will enable reproducible measurements of the mechanical properties of single cells at unprecedented speeds. The proposed research will establish a framework for mechanotyping that will be accessible to biological researchers in fields ranging from stem cells to cancer biology. Probing the mechanical signatures of cells can also provide an alternative approach to classify and treat a wide range of diseases. In addition, this research will provide critical insight into the molecular origins of mechanical phenotype, heterogeneity within a population of single cells, and more broadly, will transform the search for crucial information in biological research by exploiting the inherent texture or mechanotype of individual cells.
The educational objective of this project is to engage undergraduate and high school students, as well as general audiences, in science using food and cooking as pedagogical tools. Communicating sophisticated scientific and technological concepts using food is a tactile, innovative, and tasty approach that is proving to be popular and effective in promoting the public understanding of science and technology. Curricula will be disseminated through online modules and interactive lectures to populations of high school students, especially groups underrepresented in science. Undergraduate students will be engaged in learning science in a classroom setting through inquiry-driven projects, such as engineering an apple pie. The public understanding of science will be promoted through interactive events, including a Scientific Bake-off. These education and outreach activities will pioneer methodologies in multisensory science education using food and cooking. Promoting knowledge of science and food also addresses America's pressing need to improve eating and health issues for socio-economically-stratified communities. More information is available at www.scienceandfood.org.