Mentor: Kandice Tanner, Ph.D. |
Lab: Section on Tissue Morphodynamics

Measure the viscoelastic properties of zerbafish brain using frequency optical tweezers to understand how the micro -mechanical properties of tissue affect metastatic tumor outgrowth

The Tanner lab is focused on the early stages of metastasis, when one or a few cells have migrated from the primary tumor and survived transport in blood and lymph vessels to colonize distant organs. In the field of mechanobiology, mechanical properties have been shown to modulate gene expression and phenotype and thus influence cell fate decisions. To fully understand the interplay between the physical cues from the microenvironment and biological processes requires that we resolve and define physical properties of cells, tissues on multiple length scales (sub-microns to millimeters), and temporal scales (milliseconds to days). This is crucial in our efforts to understand such a critical determinant of tumor cell survival that can last for many years in multiple organs. Deciphering these physical cues encountered along the metastatic cascade in vivo presents a conundrum.  The Tanner lab focused on this gap by adopting and modifying intravital microscopy and optical tweezers to address the hypothesis that tissue biophysics regulates organ selectivity and tumor outgrowth during metastasis in vivo.

We propose two summer projects in

  1. Use of broad-band frequency optical tweezer based active microrheology in living zebrafish.  Using this technique, we wish to measure the viscoelastic properties of the brain with micron scale resolution in vivo. Here, we wish to understand how the mechanical properties of the metastatic niche influences tumor outgrowth
  2. Use of light sheet microscopy to image tumor cell dynamics in the brain of the zebrafish. Here, we aim to understand if there is a preferential region for tumor colonization, i.e. do tumor cells prefer vessels in the different regions of the cortex or blood vessels of a given architecture?

We are looking for motivated undergraduate or graduate students with background in biomedical or mechanical engineering, biophysics, and/or cellular biology. The candidate must have a basic understanding on physics, mechanics, and programming (preferably MATLAB). Lastly, the project goals for the summer intern are to: (i) become familiar with the fundamentals principles of optical tweezer- active microrheology in vivo; (ii) perform subsequent analysis of acquired using MATLAB; and (iii) learn scientific writing, (iv) learn zebrafish handling, (v) learn cancer biology.