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CAMP Professor Igor Sokolov Discovers Why Skin Turns Leathery

CAMP Professor Igor Sokolov's research results suggest that our skin becomes more leathery as we age. He presented his latest research findings at the Annual American Physical Society (APS) March meeting in Montreal.

Scientists have known for a long time that human epithelial tissues (skin, brain, liver, kidney, and other internal organs) lose elasticity with aging. It has been implicated in the pathogenesis of many progressive diseases of aging, including hardening of the arteries, joint stiffness, cataracts, Alzheimer's and dementia. Previous researchers believed that this aging process was caused by an increase in crosslinking of extracellular matrix proteins that normally provide elasticity. Many treatments of diseases caused by cell elasticity loss have been based on this assumption. Prof. Sokolov showed that the individual epithelial cells actually lose their elasticity.

Researchers hope Professor Sokolov's discovery can provide a new direction for research into the treatment of age-related diseases that involve loss of elasticity in epithelial tissues.

Professor Sokolov, together with Professor Woodworth of Clarkson University's Department of Biology, is studying the mechanical properties of human epithelial cells (those found in skin and other tissues that line the surfaces in our body). Their work shows that individual human epithelial cells become significantly more rigid during aging in vitro. Using Atomic Force Microscopy (AFM), they found that each cell has at least three areas of different rigidity: the area over the nucleus, the cytoplasm, and the cell edge. The Young's modulus for each area is consistently 2-4 times higher in old cells than in young cells. (See Figures 3 and 4.) Furthermore, they developed a novel method for direct visualization of the cytoskeleton of aging cells using the AFM. Using this method they can demonstrate that increased rigidity is associated with a higher density of the cytoskeleton fibers in both cytoplasmic and edge areas.

Figure 3 - Young Cells

Figure 4 - Old Cell

Professor Sokolov and Woodworth are currently investigating the ways of decreasing the rigidity of old cells up to the level of young ones. They have already shown that some cytotoxic drugs can be used to reverse the loss of elasticity of epithelial cells due to aging (patent pending).

This work was partially funded by a grant from the New York State Office of Science, Technology and Academic Research (NYSTAR) and National Science Foundation (NSF).

For more information about Professor Igor Sokolov and his research, please call him
at 315-268-2375 or send email to isokolov@clarkson.edu.


Dr. Benjamin Dorfman

Dr. Benjamin Dorfman Joins CAMP as a Research Professor

Dr. Benjamin Dorfman (who is affiliated with NanoDynamics, Inc., a Corporate Member of CAMP) recently joined CAMP as a Research Professor in the University's Department of Physics. Dr. Dorfman has spent over 40 years exploring synergetic matters to combine the best features of carbon (three-dimensional diamond-like network, graphene nanoplanes, and possibly polymer-like chains) into one solid structure. His early work (conducted in the former Soviet Union in the1960s at the Laboratory for Solid State Physics and Technology for New Generations of Computer Elements) resulted with unstable diamond-like films. During the next 20 years, he stabilized the diamond-like carbon matter with an interpenetrating quartz-like network of atomic scale, and developed an appropriate and commercially-sound technology. These materials represent multifunctional coatings with combined properties such as scratch-, wear-, and corrosion resistance, and low- friction in any humidity - including deep water conditions. The coatings may be deposited on various metals and alloys, semiconductors, plastics, ceramics, and glass. During the last decade of the Soviet era, these stabilized diamond-like coatings were successfully employed in three generations of computer hard discs, in satellite and military electronics, optics, microelectronics technology, medicine and domestic goods. Dr. Dorfman was awarded a Gold medal for the best technological achievements in 1989. In 1991, he left the USSR to continue his work in the U.S. He filed the very first patent on nano-composites in the U.S. and in the World. Later this patent was separated (upon request of the USPTO) into two master patents for diamond-like nano-composites (DLN) structure and technology.

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