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The mechanical control of CNS development and functioning

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Annabel Griffiths.

Many processes in development and disease involve growth and motion at different length and time scales. As motion is driven by forces, mechanics is a crucial – yet understudied – aspect of many biological processes. Here we illustrate how cells in the central nervous system may be influenced by their mechanical environment. Using a variety of techniques including custom-built compliant cell culture substrates, atomic force microscopy and traction force microscopy, we investigate how foreign body reactions, axonal pathfinding and invertebrate vision depend on mechanical signals. We show that mechanical substrate properties not only trigger inflammatory reactions in rat glial cells but also help guiding xenopus retinal ganglion cell axons in vitro and in vivo. In drosophila photoreceptors, mechanical forces may even be used as second messenger in metabotropic signal transduction. Together, these examples illuminate new facets of well-studied systems and suggest that mechanics might be involved in many more biological problems than currently assumed.

This talk is part of the Foster Talks series.

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