Virginia Tech™home

Going with the flow: the role of fluid flow in brain health and disease

Dr. Jennifer Munson

January 26, 2019
An interactive session led by Dr. Jennifer Munson

Dr. Jenny Munson is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biomedical Engineering and Mechanics. She received her Bachelor’s in Neuroscience and Chemical Engineering from Tulane University and her Ph.D. in Bioengineering from Georgia Tech. She was a Fulbright Scholar and Whitaker Scholar in Switzerland, where she completed her postdoctoral fellowship at L’Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne. Dr. Munson was the 2016 Rita Schaffer Young Investigator Award winner from the Biomedical Engineering Society and a 2017 Young Innovator in Cellular and Molecular Bioengineering. Her work focuses on the role of fluid flow and drainage in brain and breast cancers, drug delivery, and tissue engineering and is funded by the National Cancer Institute and American Cancer Society. She works with a team of great graduate students and postdoctoral researchers applying techniques in cell culture, computational modeling, and patient data analysis to study these complex problems.

Fluid is constantly moving through our bodies and tissues. It is important for the normal functioning of every organ, yet it is not always accounted for when we study health and disease. In the brain, fluid flow is tightly regulated and important for the normal health of the neurons and glial cells that make up this important organ. Within the brain, interstitial fluid flow, or the flow in the spaces between cells in tissues, can contribute to vast changes in the shapes and structures within the brain. In diseases, such as cancer, this fluid flow can lead to increased movement of immune cells, increased vessel sprouting, and migration and invasion of tumor cells. This talk will discuss normal and abnormal movement of fluid within the brain, strategies to measure and manipulate fluid flow, models that we develop to study cellular responses to fluid flow, and the reasons why cells, like tumor cells, migrate in response to this force and how we can target these mechanisms to impact therapy. In all, an acknowledgement that our bodies are dynamic with fluid moving constantly is important to a better understanding of health and disease.