Abstract: Epithelial cells transition between collective and individual migration during development and disease, analogous to interacting building blocks (dis)assembling as an active material. In this seminar, I will present recent results on my group to investigate so-called epithelial-mesenchymal transitions in the context of soft matter physics, mechanobiology, and machine learning. First, we investigate how mammary epithelial cells transition from a fluid-like “unjammed” phase to a solid-like “jammed” phase. We show that these collective behaviors exhibit striking analogies with a gelation-like mechanism during the diffusion limited aggregation of non-living colloidal particles. Second, we analyze the disorganization and dissemination of multicellular clusters cultured in 3D matrix, which exhibit both collective and individual invasion phenotypes with spatially non-uniform traction signatures. Third, we describe the use of topological barcodes for automated classification of tissue architecture based on spatial connectivity (i.e. persistent homology). These emergent phenomena in living and non-living systems exhibit striking similarities, which may enable new fundamental insights into
the morphogenesis of tissues and tumors.
About Dr. Wong:
Ian Wong engineers new miniaturized technologies based on biomaterials and microfluidics to investigate cancer cell invasion, drug resistance, and heterogeneity. He is also interested in the unconventional fabrication of bio and nano materials using self-assembly and 3D printing. He did his graduate work on the directed self-assembly of biomolecular materials with Nick Melosh, receiving a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering from Stanford University. His postdoctoral training was with Mehmet Toner and Daniel Irimia at the Center for Engineering in Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital. He then joined Brown University as assistant professor of engineering and of medical science. He has been recognized with an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship, a Damon Runyon Cancer Research Fellowship, and the Brown University Pierrepont Award for Outstanding Advising.
Link to the Wong Lab at Brown University: