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Abstract: To adhere and migrate, cells exert traction stresses against their extracellular matrix. In addition to aiding cell movements and helping to maintain cell shape, cellular traction stresses also contribute to the ability of cells to probe and remodel their environment. In this talk, I will discuss my lab’s work investigating the role of cellular traction stresses in mediating cell health. Using in vitro and ex vivo models, we have shown that changes in cell contractility occur during the progression of two deadly diseases: atherosclerosis and cancer. Altered cellular mechanical forces can lead to changes cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions that contribute to disorganized tissue structures, a hallmark of both cancer and atherosclerosis. Our data reveal that changes in cell contractility are linked to both atherosclerosis progression and metastasis, and that therapeutically targeting changes in cellular contractility may be one potential pathway to preventing disease progression.
Bio: Cynthia Reinhart-King is an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering at Cornell University and a member of the graduate faculty in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, the Cornell Center on Microenvironment and Metastasis and the Cornell Nanobiotechnology Center. She obtained undergraduate degrees in Chemical Engineering and Biology at MIT. While there, she was awarded the Randolph G. Wei Award for “research at the interface of the life sciences and engineering.” As a graduate student at the University of Pennsylvania in the Department of Bioengineering, she received a Whitaker Foundation Graduate Fellowship to support her thesis work on endothelial cell mechanobiology. She then completed postdoctoral training as an Individual NIH NRSA postdoctoral fellow in the Cardiovascular Research Institute at the University of Rochester. Dr. Reinhart-King’s current research interests are in the areas of cell mechanics and cell migration specifically in the context of cancer and atherosclerosis. Her lab uses a multidisciplinary approach, drawing from cell and molecular biology, biophysics, and biomechanics to quantitatively examine the mechanisms of tissue formation and disease progression. Her lab has received funding from the American Heart Association, the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation and the American Federation for Aging Research. She was awarded the 2010 Rita Schaffer Young Investigator Award by the Biomedical Engineering Society and an NSF CAREER Award. She also received the 2010 Sonny Yau ‘72 Excellence in Teaching Award, the highest award for teaching in Cornell’s College of Engineering.