Funded Research

Probing the Biomechanics of the Axoneme
Principal Investigator(s):
  • Gang Xu, RA, D.Sc. Mechanical Engineering
  • Center for Pediatric Pulmonary Disease
Award Mechanism:
Postdoctoral Fellowship
Project Period:
2/1/2012 - 1/31/2014
Total Amount:
Philip Bayly, Susan Dutcher
The goal of this project is to use engineering methods to characterize the biomechanics of axoneme, an important structure in human cilia and flagellum of the alga Chlamydomonas reinhardtii. Motor cilia are thin organelles that bend actively to propel fluid and foreign materials in airways and other passages. Ciliary dysfunction is known or suspected in a number of disorders (ciliopathies) including primary ciliary dyskinesia (PCD), chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and chronic otitis media. The asymmetric, propulsive waveform of cilia is also replicated in the flagella of Chlamydomonas, which we will use as a model experimental system. Aims: 1) Use a laser optical manipulation system (“optical tweezers”) to make detailed measurements of the mechanical properties of the flagellar axoneme. 2) Quantify the contributions of each structural component to active force generation by waveform analysis of flagella in mutants swimming in media of different viscosities. Potential impact: The goal of this research is to illuminate, using engineering tools, how mechanical force and deformation modulate the coordinated oscillations of flagellar axoneme. We anticipate that the success of the proposed research will contribute to understanding, prevention, and treatment of cilia-related pulmonary disease within 15 years, especially respiratory problems in infants and young children, and will lead to future studies focusing on diagnostic and therapeutic strategies for these diseases.