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BCB Graduate Student

Cell migration is a crucial aspect of many biological processes. External signaling guides cells through the detection of stimuli in the extracellular matrix (ECM) that influences their movement. The method of guided cell migration that I am studying is durotaxis, where cells preferentially move towards stiffer regions of the ECM where they are guided by local protrusions called pseudopods. These pseudopods can probe the mechanical properties of their environment through focal adhesions. Focal adhesions preferentially adhere to stiffer substrates and are responsible for anchoring the cell to the ECM and generating forces that ultimately cause the cell to move.

With my project, I aim to create a more accurate mathematical model of durotaxis. I am doing this through the use of movies of cells migrating on a gel with various stiffnesses. Analyzing the shape (through principal component analysis) and tracks of the cells on these gradients aid in creating this model.