Elastic Fiber Formation: A Dynamic View

Jessica Wagenseil, D.Sc.

(On February 18, Wagenseil speaks on “Imaging of extracellular matrix dynamics in living cells: new insights into structure and function.” The presentation is part of a session called “Elastic fiber formation: a dynamic view.” The session runs from 9:45 a.m. to 11:15 a.m.)

While much of what goes wrong in human disease takes place inside cells and organs, there are a significant range of disorders and dysfunctions associated with tissues that hold cells and organs in place, which are known collectively as the extracellular matrix.

Some of this tissue is rigid and fibrous like rope, but some of it, known as elastic fibers, more closely resembles rubber bands — capable of stretching when pulled on, but able to snap back to its regular shape when the pull is released. Understanding how elastic fibers are assembled during development could be important to treating such conditions as heart disease and easing some of the frailty associated with old age.

Jessica Wagenseil will present new methods and techniques she helped develop for studying the assembly of elastic fibers in cell cultures. Wagenseil is a postdoctoral research scholar in the laboratory of Robert Mecham, Ph.D., Alumni Endowed Professor of Cell Biology and Physiology and an expert in the role played by elastic fibers and other extracellular matrix proteins in the cardiovascular system.

Using a variety of techniques including fluorescent protein tags, conjugated antibodies and dynamic imaging microscopy, Wagenseil and her colleagues have obtained important new insights into how the key ingredients of elastic fibers come together.

Wagenseil earned her doctor of science in biomedical engineering in 2003 at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. In addition to her studies of elastic fiber assembly, Wagenseil has been involved in examinations of the effects of reduced elastic fibers on mouse aorta. Wagenseil’s research is currently supported by an American Heart Association Postdoctoral Fellowship.

Washington University School of Medicine’s full-time and volunteer faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is one of the leading medical research, teaching and patient care institutions in the nation, currently ranked third in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.