Biophysical cues in cancer cell dormancy

PI: Amaia Cipitria, Tom Robinson || Requires: Materials science, Biochemistry, Biotechnology or Biophyscs
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Bioengineered systems allow independent control of biophysical properties and have contributed to the understanding of how cells sense extracellular matrix (ECM) physical cues. Breast cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer-associated deaths among women. Breast cancer often metastasizes to bone, which can occur even after 10 years following tumor resection. This implies that cancer cells can undergo a dormancy phase. However, the mechanisms underlying cancer dormancy and reactivation, and in particular the role of ECM biophysical cues, are poorly understood. Amongst various physical cues, osmotic pressure has been associated with changes in cell volume, stiffness and cell fate. We hypothesize that changes in osmotic pressure and fluid
flow, characteristic of the transcapillary driving forces in the bone marrow, have an effect in cell volume and cell cycle state. Microfluidic systems will be used to trap single cells and precisely control changes in osmotic pressure and fluid flow. Genetically modified cells with the FUCCI cell cycle reporter will allow detect and quantify the state and duration of the G0-G1 quiescent cell cycle phase (red) or SG2-M proliferative phase (green). A special emphasis is laid on interdisciplinary research so that a close collaboration with scientists working on the synthesis of organotypic cell microenvironments will be expected.

Materials science, biochemistry, biotechnology or biophysics. Practical experience with cell culture and fluorescence microscopy is appreciated. Skills in scientific image analysis (such as Fiji) and basic knowledge of qPCR and microfluidics would be a plus.
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