Thursday, November 7, 2013, 3pm
Location: Room 1110 of the Nguyen Engineering Building

Fereydoon Family
Department of Physics
Emory University

Physics Puts New Lens on Major Eye Disease


Emergent phenomena in living systems, including your ability to read these lines, do not
obviously follow as a consequence of the fundamental laws of physics. Understanding the physics of living systems clearly falls outside the conventional boundaries of scientific disciplines and requires a collaborative, multidisciplinary approach. What I hope to show you in this talk is how we have used theoretical and computational techniques from nonequilibrium statistical physics to make progress in understanding the physical processes that underlie a disease called age-related macular degeneration (AMD), which is the leading cause of blindness in adults. We have developed a mechanistic model and studied the growth, patterning and progression of the disease. This allowed us to explore and quantitatively test many more combinations of hypotheses and parameter choices than would have been experimentally feasible. As a result, we have uncovered that a previously neglected mechanical instability due to adhesion failure at the cell level suffices to predict the loci and progression of the disease. This finding not only elucidates the physics of a complex biological phenomenon in a living system, but it could also have a significant effect on the future development of targeted intervention strategies and clinical treatment of AMD.