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Mechanical regulation of cell division in complex tissue environments - 23 March 2021

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Speaker: Dr Sarah Woolner, Wellcome Trust Centre for Cell Matrix Research, Faculty of Biology, Medicine and Health, University of Manchester

Host: Jody Rosenblatt

Living tissues are constantly being pushed and pulled and must sense and respond to these mechanical forces appropriately, for example by modifying patterns of cell division in a coordinated fashion. Whilst we are beginning to understand the cellular mechanisms that link cell behaviour and force in single cells, a major gap in our knowledge is understanding how mechanical force is transmitted and sensed across complex tissues. Bridging this gap is particularly important considering that many common diseases, such as cancer, alter the mechanical properties of our tissues. We are using a combination of biological and mathematical approaches to investigate how cell division is regulated by mechanical force in complex tissue environments. We have developed novel methods to stretch and image multi-layered embryonic epithelial tissue and combined these with new mathematical models for inferring relative mechanical stress across a tissue. In my talk, I will describe how we have used these approaches to uncouple the effects of mechanical stress and cell shape on cell division regulation, finding separate roles for cell shape and mechanical stress in orienting and cueing cell division. Moreover, I will describe ongoing work on a model for early-stage cancer, in which we find that oncogene expression alters cell division in neighbouring wild type epithelial cells through oncogene-specific changes in the mechanical or chemical tissue environments. 

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