[Under construction]2015 AFOSR MURIUnderstanding and Controlling the Coupled Electrical, Chemical, and Mechanical Excitable Networks of Living SystemsPO: Dr. Sofi BIN-SALAMON, BiophysicsPI: Dr. Wolfgang Losert, University of MarylandWebsite: TBD
Research Problem: In this MURI, we focus on understanding and controlling the molecularand cellular-level integration of biochemical, electrical and mechanical signals in single cells and multicellular collectives, through a comprehensive, multidisciplinary approach. Our project will include two complementary objectives with the goal to demonstrate how excitable network characteristics will allow for novel approaches to control cell scale behavior at both biochemical and mechanical levels using controlled electric fields.
Technical Approaches: Our approach builds on the recent discovery that biochemical, mechanical, and electrical systems in cells behave as excitable networks and thus can respond to simple stimuli with complex responses such as waves that may alter cell function. Excitable networks are influenced by applied electric fields. Thus we study the coupling between applied electric fields, biochemical and mechanical cell activity with critical comparisons in a general context by investigating a broad range of cells including those that are predominantly mechanical (epithelial cells) or electrical in character (cortical neurons). We will utilize new nanomaterial-enabled technologies that allow for generation of highly localized electric fields with spatiotemporal control and for minimally invasive measurements of electric activities with nanoFET sensors, and combine those technologies with advanced imaging and biosensors to enable investigations with the highest spatial and temporal resolution.
Anticipated Outcomes: We will determine how the strength, frequency and spatial patterns of an applied electric field affects biochemical signaling and cell mechanical activity. Through electric field perturbations, we will discover the connections between biochemical, electrical and mechanical cellular processes and reveal cellular feedback loops that may be controlled with targeted electric field (EF) stimuli.
Impact on DoD capabilities: The devices and protocols established in this MURI will be valuable for a broad range of DoD interests related to improvement, control, or repair of human physiology. Our MURI will lay the groundwork for a number of possible breakthrough applications of electric field stimulation and sensing, including the ability to carry out noninvasive remote microsurgery, accelerate wound healing, enhance cognition and memory, resolve inflammation, and control metastasis.