Astronauts lose bone mass because of the low gravity in space. Bones need mechanical stimulation for regeneration and growth. But how does bone tissue sense mechanical forces? Stem cell differentiation into bone tissue is complex. Several possible candidates have been suggested to work as force sensors in bone stem cells, all of which are proteins. But their interplay at molecular scale has remained elusive. Jing and Camilo’s paper is out in which they suggest Focal Adhesion Kinase as a new player in this game. Their simulations suggest this kinase to act as a mechanical sensor in bone and other tissues. The protein switches its cellular activity on only when being subjected to a pulling force. Read the article here and click on the image to see an animation of FAK on the cell membrane.
The Heidelberg Institute for Theoretical Studies (HITS) was established in 2010 by the physicist and SAP co-founder Klaus Tschira (1940-2015) and the Klaus Tschira Foundation as a private, non-profit research institute. HITS conducts basic research in the natural sciences, mathematics and computer science, with a focus on the processing, structuring, and analyzing of large amounts of complex data and the development of computational methods and software. The research fields range from molecular biology to astrophysics. The shareholders of HITS are the HITS-Stiftung, which is a subsidiary of the Klaus Tschira Foundation, Heidelberg University and the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology (KIT). HITS also cooperates with other universities and research institutes and with industrial partners. The base funding of HITS is provided by the HITS Stiftung with funds received from the Klaus Tschira Foundation. The primary external funding agencies are the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF), the German Research Foundation (DFG), and the European Union.