Researcher receives MSFHR Trainee Award to investigate the mechanics of cancer spread

Mechanical Engineering Postdoctoral Fellow Dr. Daniele Agostinelli has received a 2021 Research Trainee award from the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR). The MSFHR Research Trainee Program provides support to post-doctoral researchers or health professionals, helping them to develop their research careers in their field of medicine and health. Providing recipients with $45,000 per year for up to three years, the program was created to help “develop, attract and retain BC’s best and brightest health researchers and support the advancement of world-class health research in BC.”

As a member of Assistant Professor Mattia Bacca’s  Micro & Nano Mechanics Lab, Dr. Agostinelli investigates how cells carry out various mechanical functions such as division, movement, and the absorption of external particles such as nutrients. Under the supervision of Dr. Bacca and Associate Professor Gwynn Elfring, Dr. Agostinelli will undertake the project “The role of mechanics in EMT and cancer metastasis”, using his knowledge of cell mechanics to better understand “the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), a process that converts tightly bound cells into loosely associated motile cells.” EMT is a cell function normally involved in processes like wound healing, but it is also involved in cancer metastasis. The research team will create a mathematical model of how cell biochemistry and mechanics work together to power this process, and will compare their results to stem cell experiments conducted by the School of Biomedical Engineering’s Zandstra Lab. With EMT being the primary target of many cancer treatments, the project could contribute to the development of more effective methods of fighting cancer, as well as have implications in other areas of medicine.

Read the full description of this project on the MSFHR announcement, and view the full list of UBC funding recipients from the MSFHR Scholars and Research Trainee programs here.

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash