Program Content for EuroSchool
The most promising scientific concept to be explored in the school in 2002 is that of connecting on the dynamical level structure to function in modern molecular and cellular biology. In the session of 2003 the central theme is to explore and expand the domains of applicability of the techniques of continuum descriptions, which have advanced tremendously in the last decades, to a multitude of equilibrium and non-equilibrium systems (granular media, soft matter).
Title: Biomechanics: From Molecules to Morphogenesis
Biology is soft, wet and dynamic. Thus, at the very least it must be constrained by the laws of physics as they apply to a microscopic world buffeted by fluctuations where viscous forces, elasticity and screened electrostatics are the dominant forces that govern a host of phenomena.
Recent advances in experimental techniques, coupled with structural and chemical information, allow us to probe dynamical aspects at the scale of a few nanometers and herald the beginning of a DYNAMICAL bridge connecting structure to function in modern molecular biology, in such examples as the mechanics of ion channels and molecular motors, the physics of supercoiling and condensation in DNA, and the mechanics and dynamics of self assembly and polymorphism in proteins. Similarly, at the cellular level, experiments are beginning to show the way towards a deeper mechano-chemical understanding of processes such as the rheology of the cytoskeleton, active cell spreading, adhesion, aggregation and migration, and mechanotransduction. Finally, advanced imaging techniques (DIC, fluorescence microscopy) are paving the way towards quantitative questions at the multi-cellular level such in morphogenesis and development, tissue engineering, as well as tumor growth and angiogenesis. Thus, it would seem that this is an opportune moment for quantitative incursions into the biological sciences.
This summer course will focus on a variety of problems where concepts from continuum physics will be introduced and used to explore the possibility of quantifying mechanical phenomena in molecular and cellular biology over a range of length scales. There will be a total of 6 lectures, (two hours each) meeting every morning. A tentative plan is drawn up below:
1. Macromolecular assemblies - 3x2 hours
Length, time and energy scales in molecular and cell biology. Self- assembly and polymorphism in biopolymeric crystals such as viruses, flagella and microtubules.
2. Cellular mechanics - 3x2 hours
Cell shape and the cytoskeleton. Bilayer mechanics. Mechanics of actin networks and entanglements. Growing gels. Cell adhesion. Cell motility: crawling, gliding, swimming. Cooperative effects in motility.
3. Developmental mechanics and morphogenesis - 3x2 hours
Cell walls and morphogenesis in plants. Phyllotaxy. Folding and overturning of tissue. Mechanical issues in gastrulation and neuralation. Active rheology in low dimensions. Growth, aggregation, segregation and patterns.