Cells in our body are constantly engaged in physical interactions. They stick together, squeeze through each other, and each possesses a primitive sense of touch. These physical interactions are crucial in processes that control how we grew from a single cell into a complex organism and how they function. In diseases from cancer to neurodegeneration to chronic inflammation, these mechanical regulatory mechanisms are interrupted or impaired, causing cells to lose control and wreak havoc in our body.
The research proposed here aims to understand the changes to mechanical interactions in diseases down to the molecular scale. To do so, we need to develop tiny molecular tools that will allow us to look at these mechanical interactions through a microscope and control them with drugs.
We will build these tools using the latest DNA nanotechnology, which gives us predictable control over the shape and function of these molecules. We will apply these tools to understand how cancer metastasize to a new place in the body and how neurons break connections in neurodegeneration. This will help us identify drug targets towards a cure to two major diseases with high impact to the health of people in our society.