Nagmeh Rezaei did much of her research in the Forde lab at SFU prior to moving to the U.S.

people

Graduate’s research sheds new light on collagen’s mechanical properties

June 05, 2017
Print

By Diane Luckow

An unexpected move to California during her graduate studies added a challenging wrinkle to Nagmeh Rezaei’s research investigating the mechanical properties of collagen, the body’s most abundant protein.

Yet she overcame the challenge to complete a PhD in physics from afar, contributing new scientific knowledge that unravels the nano-mechanical properties of collagen and reconciles discrepancies in scientists’ understanding of the protein’s basic building blocks.

With an undergraduate degree in solid-state physics from Iran, she brought a unique perspective to her research by applying skills from physics and statistics to study a biological system. Her research examined the conformation and stability of collagen molecules under different environmental conditions, such as high forces.

“Collagen plays a vital role in growth, development and aging, and its mechanical properties are of direct relevance to its biological role,” says Rezaei.

A better understanding of collagen at the microscopic level, she says, sheds light on the properties of extra-cellular matrix and cell migration. This helps to understand underlying collagen-related diseases as well as cancer cell migration. It could also benefit drug delivery and even help to develop new ways to address age-related wrinkles.

And while Rezaei hasn’t discovered the answer to wrinkle-free aging, she does hope to use her experimental skills and analytical mindset to improve health and make people’s lives better, whether that’s in academia or industry.