WPI cell research could lead to better understanding of cancer and heart disease
Researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute are trying to better understand the physical factors that help regulate the life and death of cells in our bodies, and the important roles they play in the development of a wide range of disorders—from heart disease to cancer.With a three-year, $446,563 collaborative grant from the National Science Foundation, Kristen Billiar, professor and head of the Department of Biomedical Engineering at WPI, will explore how mechanical forces and stresses affect programmed cell death, according to a university article. Billiar is a BMES fellow.
Also known as apoptosis, programmed cell death is an essential part of normal growth and development, according to the article. But when cells don't die as they should, the result can be pathologies like arteriosclerosis, autoimmune diseases, and lung fibrosis.
Billiar says in the article a cell's mechanical environment plays a deciding role in either initiating or inhibiting programmed cell death. And with the NSF award, he will work to identify the precise mechanical stimuli and the cell signaling networks that initiate normal cell death by looking at how cell size, shape, stiffness, and specific outside stresses affect the cell and its ability to die normally.
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