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