UB Researchers Partner with Japanese Scientists in $10 Million Study of Cellular Mechanics

By Lois Baker

Release Date: July 21, 2000 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Biophysics researchers at the University at Buffalo have been selected by the Japan Science and Technology Ministry to be its international collaborator on a $10 million research project aimed at understanding the mechanical sensitivity of cells.

Frederick Sachs, Ph.D., UB professor of physiology and biophysical sciences, will lead the UB project, estimated to involve about $500,000 over five years. UB and MIT are the only U.S. universities selected by the Japanese Ministry for ongoing collaborative projects.

The researchers will study the physiological process by which the mechanical deformation of a cell is transformed into electrical and chemical responses. For example, mechanical transduction, more sensitive than vision, occurs when the movement of cells in the inner ear generate nerve impulses that result in the sense of hearing. Sachs and his collaborators at UB discovered the first mechanical transducers in 1983 and, since then, their lab has been a world center for work on biological mechanical sensitivity.

"In addition to providing the sense of hearing, mechanical transduction also is involved in touch, the measurement of joint position, muscle tension, bone growth, blood-pressure regulation, filling of the bladder and intestines, and the regulation of cell, tissue and organism volume and size," Sachs said.

"Although it is an essential sensory process, mechanical transduction also can produce pathology. Cardiac fibrillation -- the uncoordinated contraction of the heart -- can be initiated by mechanical stress, and failure of the heart is the most common cause of death worldwide. Understanding the fundamental mechanisms of mechanical transduction will enable scientists to develop rational therapies for disease."

The work will be carried out in collaboration with Masahiro Sokabe, chair of the Department of Physiology at Nagoya Medical School, who is heading the project and who spent a sabbatical year in Sachs' laboratory at UB.