Date

2012

Department or Program

Physics

Primary Wellesley Thesis Advisor

Yue Hu

Additional Advisor(s)

Christian Franck

Abstract

Significant progress has been achieved towards understanding the biochemical aspects of cancer metastasis; yet, less is known about the mechanical processes that govern cancer cell invasion. These mechanical processes include: 1) changes in the elastic properties of cells and 2) changes in the motility of cells triggered by physical properties of the microenvironment. This thesis aims to understand the latter; in particular is the traction behavior of cancer cells as they navigate through different pore sizes. Cells were seeded on 3D hydrogel scaffolds with a structure and dimensionality that mimic the physiological conditions encountered by metastatic cells in vivo. Migratory behavior of these cells were determined by traction force microscopy, a technique used to determine the forces generated by cells on their substrata. Data on cell tractions allowed analysis on the mechanical interplay between cells and their environments. Understanding this interplay can have profound implications on cancer therapy, such as reducing or preventing the migration of these cells.

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