Insigneo Seminar: Systems-Mechanobiology of Health and Disease

Insigneo Seminar graphic Fabian Spill talk details

Event details

Friday 4 November 2022
38 Mappin Street, The University of Sheffield, Sheffield, S1 4DT
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We are pleased to announce that Dr Fabian Spill, Reader (Associate Professor) in Applied Mathematics at the University of Birmingham, will visit the Insigneo Institute and give a talk on 'Systems-Mechanobiology of Health and Disease' on Friday 4 November 2022 at 13:00.


Experimental biologists traditionally study biological functions as well as diseases mostly through their abnormal molecular or cellular features. For example, they investigate genetic abnormalities in cancer, hormonal imbalances in diabetes, or an aberrant immune system in vascular diseases. However, many diseases also have a mechanical component which is critical to their deadliness. Notably, cancer kills typically through metastasis, where the cancer cells acquire the capability to remodel their adhesions and migrate. Solid tumours are also characterised by physical changes in the extracellular matrix – the material surrounding the cells. While such physical changes are long known, only relatively recent research revealed that cells can sense altered physical properties and transduce them into chemical information. An example is the YAP/TAZ signalling pathway that can activate in response to altered matrix mechanics and that can drive tumour phenotypes such as the rate of cell proliferation. Another example includes endothelial cells that sense flow, matrix properties and forces from neighbouring cells.

Systems-biology models aim to study biological and disease systems holistically, focusing not just on parts, but also interactions of the parts. In this talk, I will argue that physical signatures are a critical part of many biological systems and therefore, need to be incorporated into systems biology. Crucially, physical disease signatures bi-directionally interact with molecular and cellular signatures, presenting a major challenge to developing such models. I will present several examples of recent and ongoing work aimed at uncovering the relations between mechanical and molecular/cellular signatures in health and disease. I will discuss how blood vessel cells interact mechano-chemically with each other to regulate the passage of cells and nutrients between blood and tissue, how cancer cells grow and die in response to mechanical and geometrical stimuli and how the heart molecular state changes during ageing, which, consequently, affects heart muscle function.

Brief Biography:

Fabian Spill is a Reader (Associate Professor) in Applied Mathematics at the University of Birmingham, a UKRI Future Leaders Fellowship and a Turing Fellow at the Alan Turing Institute in London. His research is at the interface of systems biology and mechanobiology, and he leads an interdisciplinary group of mathematicians, engineers and experimentalists aiming to uncover links between traditional systems biology that focuses on molecular or cellular interactions of biological systems, and mechanobiology, which focuses on the study of forces and physical properties in biology.


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