Cell-Matrix Mechanics

The Cell-Matrix Mechanics Group creates novel experimental and computational platforms to quantify cell-matrix interactions. This work is harnessed for basic study of cell behavior, and application to the design of cell-instructive biomaterials.

Cell Instructive Biomaterials: We discovered a dominant role of the extracellular matrix in tendon progenitor cell behavior. Stem cells cultured on hydrogels functionalized with fibronectin tend consistently toward osteogenic lineages. Tendon cells could only be derived on Collagen based substrates, and then only within a narrow range of substrate mechanical/ topological properties.

  • MSC behavior is driven by the biomaterial substrate.

Cell Mechanics in 3D: The cells of our body live within a three-dimensional context, yet for practical reasons, much of biological research is done in two dimensions. We are nonetheless developing 3D systems that allow us to quantify cell response to matrix mechanics and structure. Below: (A) Fibroblasts are used to create thin layers of 3D matrix. (B) A fibroblast within its matrix. (C) This matrix is decellularized, marked with fiducial nano-reporters, and repopulated with skeletal stem cells. (D) Cell-matrix contractility can be measured by tracking bead displacements after disrupting the cell cytoskeleton.

  • Quantitative study of 3D cell mechanics.

In Silico Cell Biology: Biological complexity can make it extremely difficult to understand system behavior. We use biophysical models to explore the salient functional features cellular subsystems, and how these interact to yield a functional, integrated biological behavior.

  • Predictive In Silico models of cell spreading.