Daria Bonazzi, member of the unit ‘Pathogenesis of vascular infections’ led by Guillaume Duménil, received the European Research Council (ERC) Starting grant for her project ‘HOMEPATH – Control of host mechanics by a bacterial pathogen and functional impact’. She is among the 400 early-career researchers in Europe (and 50 in France) to receive this prestigious grant in 2023.
Cells are active components of our organism: they can exert forces on their environment as well as sense and then respond to mechanical signals from the outside. Mechanobiology focuses on the interplay between physical forces and biological mechanisms at the cell and tissue level. This field, at the interface between physics, engineering and biology, is the main research area of Daria Bonazzi. She studies more specifically the forces at play during bacterial infection to understand how the pathogens modify the mechanical properties of the host cells to facilitate the infection.
In the project HOMEPATH, Daria Bonazzi will study the extracellular bacterium Neisseria meningitidis which colonizes the nasopharynx before entering the bloodstream by crossing different tissue barriers. Using in vitro 2D and 3D live microscopy, her team will measure the forces exerted during different stages of infection while identifying key molecular mechanisms in host cells. This will allow us to better understand the biomechanical properties of tissue barriers and how bacterial infection disrupts their homeostasis.