Physics vs. Chemistry of Cell Capture at the Blood Vessel Wall

At the crossroad between physics, biology and chemistry, this ANR-funded project aims to quantify adhesion forces of individual bacteria adhering and moving onto soft surfaces at the onset of surface colonization.

Description of the project:
In this interdisciplinary project, the student will use in vitro systems to study how the mechanical and biochemical properties of the polymer layer covering the blood vessels helps regulating the selective capture of cells from the blood circulation into tissues.

Cell capture under flow at the wall of blood vessels is a critical physiological process: red blood cell adhesion should be avoided to prevent blood clots, and immune and stem cell adhesion is tightly regulated for proper immune/inflammatory responses, and for tissue repair. How the selective capture of cells is controlled is not well understood. It is clear though that this involves biomechanical and biochemical cues, and knowing how these signals are coupled would help to devise new ways to control immune cell recruitment and homing of stem cells, or to interfere with pathogen invasion and tumour metastasis.
The first and critical step of cell capture is mediated by the endothelial glycocalyx, a soft and glycan-rich coat on the blood vessel wall. To elucidate how biomechanical and biochemical cues in the glycocalyx are coupled to regulate cell capture, biomimetic surfaces will be developed that present selected components of the blood vessel wall in a tunable way, building on our extended experience on simpler glycocalyx models. Combined with laminar flow assays, these surfaces will enable quantitative cellular and cell-mimetic studies in a well-defined environment, and subsequent analysis with theories from soft matter and biological physics.

The student will be exposed to and work with state-of-the-art surface biofunctionalization and physico-chemical characterization, microfluidics and advanced optical microscopy methods, cell culture as well as soft matter and biological physics concepts. Training on all these methods will be provided as required.
Qualification of the applicant
This 2-years master project of the Graduate School programm Soft-Nano is well adapted to students following the first year major in Soft Matter and Biophysics of the master N2.
We are looking for an enthusiastic and rigorous experimentalist with a keen interest in multidisciplinary work. Experience with biosurface science, image analysis or cell culture, and affinity for data modelling, are an advantage.
Location and practical aspects
This project is part of an ongoing collaboration between the University Grenoble Alpes (UGA) and the University of Leeds (UoL). The student will be hosted by the Laboratory of Interdisciplinary Physics (LIPhy) at UGA, in the research group Mechanics of Cells in Complex Media (MC2). He/she will work under the supervision of Oksana Kirichuk (PhD student, UGA), Dr. Delphine Débarre (UGA) and Dr. Ralf Richter (UoL).
Interested candidates should contact D. Débarre ( with their motivation letter, CV and transcript of university record (indicate “internship - Glycocalyx” as e-mail subject).
Published on February 12, 2021
Updated on September 7, 2022