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Cell Engineering


Our quest to understand how structure and mechanics influence cell shape and function required the development of entirely new experimental approaches to control physical parameters such as cell shape and mechanical stresses at the micrometer and nanometer size scales. For example, we have worked in collaboration with the laboratory of Dr. George Whitesides (Dept. of Chemistry and Chemical Biology, Harvard. U.) to develop advanced technologies that use nanotechnology-based self-assembly, soft lithography and microcontact printing to create defined culture microenvironments and microfluidic systems to study how ECM and cell shape regulate cell fate switching. We also have developed micro- and nano-magnetic methods to probe the molecular and biophysical basis of cellular mechanotransduction, and to quantitate the viscoelastic properties of living cells.

In addition, we have combined these approachs with GFP (green fluorescent protein)-based molecular read-outs to define the way in which living cells control their shape and mechanics through natural self-assembly of cytoskeletal filaments on the nanometer scale. A nanosurgical method utilizing femtosecond lasers also has been developed in collaboration with Dr. Eric Mazur (Dept. of Physics, Harvard. U.) to selectively vaporize nanoscale structures within living cells without compromising surrounding structures or cell viability. Ongoing studies focus on: development of nanomagnetic approaches to non-invasively control signal transduction and gene expression in living cells, creation of FRET-based nanomolecular fluorescent readouts of mechanical stimulus-response coupling, mechanical analysis of nanotechnology-based cytoskeletal mimics, and magnetically-induced cellular self-assembly to engineer artificial mammalian tissues.



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