The University of California, Davis has announced two $1 million grants from the W.M. Keck Foundation in support of research on cell mechanics and the genetics of common diseases.

The team of Gang-Yu Liu, professor of chemistry, and Ian Kennedy, professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, was awarded $1 million to develop a microscope to measure the stiffness and other mechanical properties of single cells and study the toxicity of nanoparticles. Among other things, Liu and Kennedy will use the microscope to test whether early signs of damage to endothelial cells — which line the blood vessels and airways — from metal oxides appear as changes in the cells’ mechanical properties. Because cancer cells appear to be softer than normal cells, Liu also believes the technology can be further developed to provide new approaches to cancer research.

David Segal, an associate professor of pharmacology, also received $1 million for a study to identify genetic changes associated with heart disease. His research focuses on understanding how specific nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) — tiny variations in the DNA sequence — increase the risk of coronary artery disease. The grant will support a study to assess the impact of various SNP sequences on endothelial cells, which behave differently in patients with coronary artery disease. Segal and his collaborators on the grant — Jan Nolta, director of the UC Davis Stem Cell Program; Anne Knowlton, professor of internal medicine; David Rocke, professor of public health sciences; and Scott Simon, professor of biomedical engineering — are working to identify new molecular pathways that could serve as drug targets.

“With these latest grants, the Keck Foundation continues its longstanding partnership with UC Davis to foster innovation and discovery that advance health the world over,” said Claire Pomeroy, vice chancellor for human health sciences and dean of the UC Davis School of Medicine. “We are extremely grateful for their support.”

To learn more about this grant award, please visit the UC Davis website.

To learn more about grants and grant writing, please visit the Grant Pros website

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