Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Techniques of Materials Science Come to Biology

MIT Tecnology Review
"Sticky Problems
Suresh points back to the computer screen, where Mills has captured another cell. But red blood cells are not solitary things. The parasite creates 'knobs' on the surface of a red blood cell that make it stick to healthy cells, sometimes causing clumping in the bloodstream. Such clumping can cause tremendous internal damage and even death.
'We think we can measure the force of adhesion between two cells -- a measure of the stickiness, which also plays a huge role in the development of the disease,' Suresh says. 'As far as we know, nobody has quantified that stickiness.' Suresh hopes that determining the force of adhesion will help lead to a malaria treatment that improves blood flow.
Although Suresh is excited about the biological work he's doing, he's also circumspect. Nanoscale measurement of the physical properties of biological cells is really still in its early phases, he says. 'We're just starting to put this together. It'll be five years before we start to see where we can go. We still have to understand the science. Then we can figure out the potential for treatments.'"