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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/P024092/1
Title: Mechanics of the cell interface
Principal Investigator: Staykova, Dr M
Other Investigators:
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
Department: Physics
Organisation: Durham, University of
Scheme: First Grant - Revised 2009
Starts: 01 May 2017 Ends: 30 April 2018 Value (£): 100,328
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Biological membranes Biophysics
Structural biology
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
No relevance to Underpinning Sectors
Related Grants:
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
07 Mar 2017 EPSRC Physical Sciences - March 2017 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
The physical coat of biological cells- a thin fluid lipid membrane, supported on a deformable actin network, is remarkable in its ability to adapt and respond to mechanical stretch. The properties of the coat allow cells to sustain the transient dilation of lungs, intestines, bladder, etc., to squeeze through small capillaries, and they are what we currently lack in the design of microcapsules for delivery and release.

Previous work by us and others on reconstituted systems and on living cells lead us to suggest that the mechanical competence of the cellular coat emerges from the material properties of the lipid membrane and the actin cortex, as well as from their coordinated structural remodeling upon mechanical deformation. In particular we propose that upon stretch the actin cortex stiffens and protects the lipid membrane from rupturing, and upon compression, the cortex fluidizes and allows the membrane to reshape and regulate its excess area.

To be able to verify these mechanisms and to reveal processes that are inaccessible by whole cell experiments, we will assemble the cellular coat onto an elastic substrate and image the structural remodeling of the membrane and the actin cortex during stretch and compression. With this project we aim to 1) build the experimental setup, 2) elucidate the ability of the cellular coat to sustain mechanical deformation by passive restructuring, and 3) establish complementary collaborative work with labs working on cell and tissue mechanics. This project will prepare the grounds for our future studies on the ability of cells to actively adapt and respond to mechanical deformation, which links among others to processes such as morphogenesis, embryogenesis, or migration of cancer cells.

In addition, during and after the project, we will collaborate with an industrial partner to translate our findings on the mechanics of the cellular coat to the design of stimuli-responsive capsules for flavour release and delivery.

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