Silk, Slime, and Cells: Intermediate Filaments in Health, Disease, and Biomimetics

A Division of Life Sciences Faculty Mentorship Colloquium presented by Douglas Fudge, Department of Integrative Biology, University of Guelph

Wednesday, January 29, 2014
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
158 Hershey


In this talk, I will discuss my lab’s research on the diverse family of proteins known as intermediate filaments (IFs), which are implicated across an impressive range of biomechanical phenomena. I will begin by presenting an excellent model system to study IFs: the defensive slime of hagfishes, which is reinforced by thousands of exquisitely assembled bundles of IFs. These “slime threads” are critical to the function of the slime, and they have also served as a powerful experimental model for exploring the biophysics of IFs in cells and tissues. Next I will discuss the mechanical behavior and function of IF networks in epithelial cells, as well as the biophysical mechanisms underlying tissue fragility diseases such as epidermolysis bullosa simplex. The mammalian lens contains its own unique IFs known as beaded filaments, and I will discuss the mechanical function of these structures based on our work with transgenic knockout mice. IFs make up the fibrous reinforcement in the mammalian biomaterials known as alpha-keratins, and our work has demonstrated that control of IF hydration is critical to the function of keratinous structures such as hair, nail, horn, hoof, and baleen. In the last part of the talk, I will discuss two biomimetic projects aimed at the production of high performance tensile and puncture-resistant materials.

Host: Stephanie White

Refreshments will be served starting at 11:40 a.m.