Periodic Reporting for period 3 - MECHANO-CONTROL (Mechanical control of biological function)
Reporting period: 2019-07-01 to 2020-12-31
Our expected results are the construction of a body of knowledge and technology that encompasses biomechanics from the single molecule to whole organ scale, and the demonstration that it can be harnessed to control biological function in general, and breast cancer in particular. This will include scientific knowledge, experimental and computational technologies spanning from the molecule to the organism. Due to this hierarchical, multi-scale approach to understand and control tissue and organ behaviour, we aim to provide a rigorous, mechanistic and technologic baseline for tissue mechanics and cohesiveness with the potential to control and predict the outcome of any morphogenetic process. Specifically, we will focus on breast cancer as a proof-of-concept system.
Since mechanical forces transmitted through adhesive links are crucial in cancer, development, and wound healing, approaches based on inhibiting adhesion (for oncology applications) and on promoting it (for implants) have already been attempted. However, those approaches often fail because merely inhibiting adhesion in a tumour may promote metastasis, and because certain types of adhesion in implants may promote rejection. Because we have no mechanistic knowledge of how mechanics and adhesion drive biological response, current development is based on trial-and-error approaches, often leading resource waste and ineffective results. We propose to shift this paradigm, providing the techniques and mechanisms that will allow not merely to inhibit or promote adhesion, but to steer and tune mechanical and adhesive signals in the proper direction.
In terms of the implications of the project so far, our developed hydrogels, with the potential ability to tune adhesive and mechanical properties, have a major potential to be used in drug screening in cancer. This potential is further enhanced by all the biological characterization work being carried out by the consortium. In this regard, a patent has been filed. Additionally, we have identified a particularly promising molecular interaction involved in mechanical responses, and we are developing drugs to target it. A FET Launchpad was proposed by IBEC related to this, which was funded.