University of Cambridge > > Trinity College Science Society (TCSS) > Heavy mice and lighter things: how chemistry gives insight into how biological tissues work

Heavy mice and lighter things: how chemistry gives insight into how biological tissues work

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The bulk of our solid tissues, such as skin, muscle, tendon, bone and blood vessels, is made up of the so-called extracellular matrix. The extracellular matrix is ultimately responsible for determining how cells in the tissue behave – so bone cells behave like bone cells, for instance, because they are surrounded by bone extracellular matrix, rather than tendon matrix, or any other tissue matrix. When the structure of the extracellular matrix changes, so cells are directed to behave differently – and this leads to disease. Cancer cells, for instance, change the matrix around them in a way which invariably has a detrimental effect on the normal cells of the tissue, often leading to those normal cells dying- and hence the devastating consequences of cancer in a tissue. Furthermore, cancer cells seem to be able to change the structure of the matrix around them and in neighbouring tissues to allow the cancer cells to move and invade new tissues, progressing the disease. This talk will describe the work in my group which seeks to unravel exactly how the extracellular matrix directs cells to behave the way they do. Our aim is to be able to halt the progression of diseases like cancer by either halting or reversing the structural changes of the extracellular matrix that are key to the progression of the disease, and so bring a new paradigm to the way in which diseases can be treated -by treating the extracellular matrix, rather than treating cells.

This talk is part of the Trinity College Science Society (TCSS) series.

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