Cells are the basic entities of biological systems. They have particular physical properties, which enable them to navigate their 3D physical environment and fulfill their biological functions. We investigate these physical – mechanical and optical – properties of living cells and tissues using novel photonics and biophysical tools to test their biological importance. Our ultimate goal is the transfer of our findings to medical application in the fields of improved diagnosis of diseases and novel approaches in regenerative medicine.
Jochen Guck received the Wilhelm Ostwald Medal of the Saxon Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Leipzig, which is usually awarded annually to a…
"My fingers are itching, I would love to start next week." Time capsule embedded at the Max Planck Center for Physics and Medicine
The next step in the construction of a special large-scale project has been taken: after the foundation stone was laid in 2021, employees of the…
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Cells actively sense and respond to a variety of mechanical signals — a process known as mechanosensing. Mechanical cues provided by the extracellular environment can modulate a wide spectrum of cellular events, including cell proliferation, differentiation and protein production. Read More...
Cells define and largely form their surrounding tissues and, in return, receive biochemical and physical cues from them. We are working on resolving this interdependence by quantifying these tissue mechanical properties, correlating them with biological function, investigating their origin and ultimately controlling them. Read More...
Changes in Blood Cell Deformability in Chorea-Acanthocytosis and Effects of Treatment With Dasatinib or Lithium
Felix Reichel, Martin Kräter, Kevin Peikert, Hannes Glaß, Philipp Rosendahl, Maik Herbig, Alejandro Rivera Prieto, Alexander Kihm, Giel Bosman, et al.
Misshaped red blood cells (RBCs), characterized by thorn-like protrusions known as acanthocytes, are a key diagnostic feature in Chorea-Acanthocytosis (ChAc), a rare neurodegenerative disorder. The altered RBC morphology likely influences their biomechanical properties which are crucial for the cells to pass the microvasculature. Here, we investigated blood cell deformability of five ChAc patients compared to healthy controls during up to 1-year individual off-label treatment with the tyrosine kinase inhibitor dasatinib or several weeks with lithium. Measurements with two microfluidic techniques allowed us to assess RBC deformability under different shear stresses. Furthermore, we characterized leukocyte stiffness at high shear stresses. The results showed that blood cell deformability–including both RBCs and leukocytes - in general was altered in ChAc patients compared to healthy donors. Therefore, this study shows for the first time an impairment of leukocyte properties in ChAc. During treatment with dasatinib or lithium, we observed alterations in RBC deformability and a stiffness increase for leukocytes. The hematological phenotype of ChAc patients hinted at a reorganization of the cytoskeleton in blood cells which partly explains the altered mechanical properties observed here. These findings highlight the need for a systematic assessment of the contribution of impaired blood cell mechanics to the clinical manifestation of ChAc.
An explicit model to extract viscoelastic properties of cells from AFM force-indentation curves
Shada Abuhattum Hofemeier, Dominic Mokbel, Paul Müller, Despina Soteriou, Jochen Guck, Sebastian Aland
Atomic force microscopy (AFM) is widely used for quantifying the mechanical properties of soft materials such as cells. AFM force-indentation curves are conventionally fitted with a Hertzian model to extract elastic properties. These properties solely are, however, insufficient to describe the mechanical properties of cells. Here, we expand the analysis capabilities to describe the viscoelastic behavior while using the same force-indentation curves. Our model gives an explicit relation of force and indentation and extracts physically meaningful mechanical parameters. We first validated the model on simulated force-indentation curves. Then, we applied the fitting model to the force-indentation curves of two hydrogels with different crosslinking mechanisms. Finally, we characterized HeLa cells in two cell cycle phases, interphase and mitosis, and showed that mitotic cells have a higher apparent elasticity and a lower apparent viscosity. Our study provides a simple method, which can be directly integrated into the standard AFM framework for extracting the viscoelastic properties of materials.
Epithelial RAC1-dependent cytoskeleton dynamics controls cell mechanics, cell shedding and barrier integrity in intestinal inflammation
Luz del Carmen Martínez-Sánchez, Phuong Anh Ngo, Rashmita Pradhan, Lukas-Sebastian Becker, David Boehringer, Despina Soteriou, Markéta Kubánková, Christine Schweitzer, Tatjana Koch, et al.
Objective: Increased apoptotic shedding has been linked to intestinal barrier dysfunction and development of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). In contrast, physiological cell shedding allows the renewal of the epithelial monolayer without compromising the barrier function. Here, we investigated the role of live cell extrusion in epithelial barrier alterations in IBD. Design: Taking advantage of conditional GGTase and RAC1 knockout mice in intestinal epithelial cells (Pggt1biΔIEC and Rac1iΔIEC mice), intravital microscopy, immunostaining, mechanobiology, organoid techniques and RNA sequencing, we analysed cell shedding alterations within the intestinal epithelium. Moreover, we examined human gut tissue and intestinal organoids from patients with IBD for cell shedding alterations and RAC1 function. Results: Epithelial Pggt1b deletion led to cytoskeleton rearrangement and tight junction redistribution, causing cell overcrowding due to arresting of cell shedding that finally resulted in epithelial leakage and spontaneous mucosal inflammation in the small and to a lesser extent in the large intestine. Both in vivo and in vitro studies (knockout mice, organoids) identified RAC1 as a GGTase target critically involved in prenylation-dependent cytoskeleton dynamics, cell mechanics and epithelial cell shedding. Moreover, inflamed areas of gut tissue from patients with IBD exhibited funnel-like structures, signs of arrested cell shedding and impaired RAC1 function. RAC1 inhibition in human intestinal organoids caused actin alterations compatible with arresting of cell shedding. Conclusion: Impaired epithelial RAC1 function causes cell overcrowding and epithelial leakage thus inducing chronic intestinal inflammation. Epithelial RAC1 emerges as key regulator of cytoskeletal dynamics, cell mechanics and intestinal cell shedding. Modulation of RAC1 might be exploited for restoration of epithelial integrity in the gut of patients with IBD.
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