Inaugural lecture in physiology: Touching cells

On the mechanical properties of living cells – Inaugural lecture by Prof. Dr. Kristina Kusche-Vihrog on 2 July (5 p.m., Lecture Hall AM 3)

Endothelium refers to a single cell layer that lines the interior surface of blood vessels. The endothelial cells form an intelligent barrier between blood and somatic cells, but also make an important contribution to the regulation of clotting and blood pressure. They react in a flexible way to changes in blood flow and pressure levels, and release vasoactive agents. In order to be able to fulfil this task, endothelial cells must possess a high level of plasticity and cannot be rigid in form.

The changes in their surface that endothelial cells detect are transmitted to the cell interior in the form of biochemical signals. Complex and extremely dynamic processes make this physiologically important constant change between a “soft” and “hard” cell surface possible.

In recent years, biophysical methods have been developed that enable precise measurement of the mechanical properties of living cells and molecules. Changes in the cell surface can be examined by, for example, atomic force microscopy, a method that involves probing the surface of cells or quantifying the force between two interacting cells.

If endothelial cells become chronically rigid and inflexible, this represents the first step in endothelial dysfunction and lays the groundwork for cardiovascular diseases and hypertension. Mediators in this case can include inflammatory processes, but also typical vascular risk factors such as a high-salt diet. Accordingly, the rigidity of an endothelial surface reflects the physiological status of the cell.

We are focusing on researching the mechanism behind these changes in endothelial nanomechanics. The translational research approach is of great importance in this respect.

As part of the inaugural lecture, the basic principles and clinical potential of the examination of nanomechanical properties of living edothelial cells will be explained. -

Prof. Dr. rer. nat. Kristina Kusche-Vihrog is Director of the Institute of Physiology at the University of Lübeck.

Prof. Dr. Kristina Kusche-Vihrog