Biomechanics in health and disease:
advanced physical tools for innovative early diagnosis
H2020-MSCA-ITN-2018 n. 812772

Project description

Phys2BioMed - Biomechanics in health and disease

EU H2020-MSCA-ITN-2018 - ETN n. 812772 (from 2019-01-01 to 2022-12-31)

Phys2BioMed will offer excellent interdisciplinary and cross-sectoral training to a team of motivated early stage researchers (ESRs) on the application of cutting-edge physical tools for the mechanical phenotyping of cells and tissues of clinical relevance, aiming at developing novel early-diagnostic tools.
The Phys2BioMed network will merge diverse competences at European level, from different fields like nanoscience and nanotechnology, physics, biology, and medicine, and will expose ESRs to the non academic and private sector.
A key element of the project is the peer-to-peer collaboration of research academic institutions with industries and world-leading medical and clinical centers; they will highlight unmet clinical needs, and actively cooperate with academic colleagues for developing novel diagnostic strategies.
Phys2BioMed will provide scientific and technological outcomes on biomechanics, and the mechanical determinants of diseases, by:
  • defining standardized procedures for nanomechanical measurements, and the main features of new-generation instrumentation optimized for the mechanical phenotyping of clinical specimens;
  • providing, in the longer-term, the platform and know-how to build a data bank of mechanical fingerprints of diseases, for the development of effective early-diagnostic tools.

Objectives of the research programme

General objectives

  1. Provide excellent training-through-research in the multidisciplinary and emerging field of mechanical phenotyping of cells and biological tissues for diagnostic purposes, with particular attention to the maximisation of the employability of trainees, based on:
    1. Access to cutting-edge technology and science within a multidisciplinary network.
    2. Exposure to non-academic and private world, and major players in the health system (hospitals, clinics, bio- banks).
    3. Acquisition of complimentary and career development skills.
  2. Standardisation and validation of nano-mechanical characterisation procedures of clinically relevant samples provided by medical partners based on atomic force microscopy (AFM) and other techniques, with focus on:
    1. Mechanical and rheological characterisation of single cells, extracellular matrices (ECMs), and tissues.
    2. Evaluation of other techniques (micro- and nano-indentation, microfluidic deformability tests) for mechanical phenotyping of clinically-relevant samples.
    3. Identification of main features of a novel class of nano-mechanical tools suitable for clinical applications.
  3. Identification of measurable mechanical markers of diseases selected by the medical partners according to their impact on health and society, for the preliminary definition of early-diagnostic cues of clinical relevance, with particular attention to:
    1. Establishing the specificity and sensitivity of the mechanical properties with respect to selected diseases

Specific scientific and technological objectives

  1. To establish the mechanical and rheological fingerprints of cells and tissues and their alterations in diseases. Phys2BioMed will produce comprehensive nano-mechanical and rheological phenotypes of cells and tissues (WP1) to define mechanical fingerprints of specific diseases (WP6). The main approach used will be based on atomic force  microscopy (AFM) coupled to different methods such as microfluidic cytometry, non-AFM nano-indentation and structural inspection (WP5).
  2. To establish procedures, models, and standards for assessments of cell and tissue nano-mechanical properties. The approach will reside in defining standard procedures for mechanical tests (WP2), sample preparation (WP3) and data analysis (WP4). To this aim, a robust and reproducible method allowing to measure viscoelastic parameters of cells and tissues (WP2), sample preparation procedures to allow the circulation of specimens and the conservation of their structural/mechanical properties (WP3) and open data processing software will be developed (WP4). To ascertain high efficiency, we will benefit from mechanical modelling (WP4) of cells and tissues, and from comparison with alternative technical approaches (WP5). Databases will be launched to be open to the scientific community (WPs 4, 6).
  3. To correlate the output of the mechanical and rheological phenotyping of clinical samples (ECMs, cells, tissues) to specific clinical features of the selected diseases (WP6), so to define heuristic mechanical fingerprints to be used as early-diagnostic cues.

Governance of the project