Applied Mechanics News

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Major Research Areas in Molecular Biomechanics

Over the last decade or so molecular biomechanics has emerged as a new field consisting of at least three major areas: (1) the mechanisms of mechanotransduction as related to cellular behavior and function; (2) mechanical behavior of biomolecules; (3) biomolecules as engineering materials and devices. Although these three areas are related, they have different focuses:

Mechanotransduction as Related to Cellular Behavior and Function: This concerns with how cells sense mechanical forces or deformations, and transduce them into biological responses. Specifically, it is important to reveal and understand how mechanical forces alter cell behavior and function including growth, differentiation, movement, signal transduction, protein secretion and transport, gene expression and regulation.

Mechanical Behavior of Biomolecules: This area plays a central role in molecular biomechanics and includes quantitative measurement and analysis of the structural rigidity of DNA, RNA and proteins under stretching, twisting, bending and shear, or their combinations, and how the structural rigidity and mechanical deformation of biomolecules affects DNA condensation, gene replication and transcription, DNA-protein and RNA-protein interactions, protein function, protein-protein and protein-ligand interactions. This is the most challenging area in molecular mechanics; its advencement requires the development of new experimental and computational tools.

Biomolecules as an Engineering Materials and Devices. With the advent of nanotechnology, there is an increasing need to understand the mechanochemical coupling in biomolecular motors, to decipher the structure-function relations of proteins as nanomachines, to use DNA and proteins as components of hybrid nanosystems; and to address interfacing issues in organic/inorganic nanodevices. This also involves the uncovering of engineering design principles of molecular machines in living cells, and application of these design principles to the development of engineered nanosystems.

Since molecular biomechanics is still in its infancy, extensive discussions on how to best develop these areas will be very helpful.


  • Dear Gang:
    Thank you very much for this helpful entry. Enthusiasm is gathering around the field of biomolecular mechanics, but most mechanicians don’t know where to begin, and would like to learn biological significance of mechanical phenomena. You will have a large following if you (and your collaborators) can post a series of entries, each focusing on one aspect of the field, giving some background and a few references. You own your entries. You can use them in whatever way you like, including assemble them into a review article later and publish it elsewhere.

    Excuse me for the plug: Gang Bao and a number of other mechanicians active in biomechanics will lecture at a Gordon Research Conference, to be held between 30 July and 4 August, 2006, at Colby College, in Maine.

    By Blogger Zhigang Suo, at 5/14/2006 3:42 AM  

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