Our mission is to understand how mechanics affects human biology and disease at the fundamental level of biological cells. Factors such as force, adhesivity, organization, and material properties, can influence the structure-function relationship in tissue. This occurs naturally through a process known as mechanotransduction, which is the conversion of mechanical factors into biochemical changes, and can influence cellular functions such as proliferation, differentiation, migration, and apoptosis. However, it is difficult to identify the effect of mechanical factors because we lack appropriate tool-sets with which to study mechanobiology. In the Cell Biomechanics Lab, we address these questions with new experimental techniques and modeling approaches in order to build up a knowledge base on cell mechanics. If we can understand how cells are guided by mechanics, then we can alter or direct cellular properties and responses in order to influence large changes in tissue and organs. Moreover, these properties and responses can serve as mechanical signatures that allow us to diagnose diseased states in our cells and tissues.
We specialize in the design and development of new micro- and nano-tools for biological and medical research. We manufacture these tools using microfabrication and innovative processes in nanoscience and bioengineering. By miniaturizing the tool, we can probe the role of cell mechanics at the length scale appropriate to the size of cells and their proteins. Our bodies can be viewed as a hierarchical system where our organs are composed of different tissues, which are defined by cells and the properties of the proteins they express. A key aspect to our physiology is how all the small parts come together, e.g. cytoskeleton, focal adhesions, cell-cell contacts, cell membrane, etc. Through studying the coordinated activity of cells and quantifying their mechanical properties, we can understand normal and diseased physiology at a fundamental level.