Cells’ mechanical memory could hold clues to cancer metastasis

In the body, cells move around to form organs during development; to heal wounds; and when they metastasize from cancerous tumors. A mechanical engineer at Washington University in St. Louis found that cells remember the properties they had in their first environment for several days after they move to another in a process called mechanical memory.

Amit Pathak, assistant professor of mechanical engineering & materials science in the School of Engineering & Applied Science, spent three years using mechanobiology and materials science to find answers to these questions: If cells sit in one environment and move to another one, do they remember the first one, and do they inherit any of the properties of the first environment? The results of the research, conducted in collaboration with Gregory Longmore, professor of medicine in the Department of Internal Medicine’s Medical Oncology division at Washington University School of Medicine, were available in advanced online publication Sept. 8 in Biomaterials.

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