BIOE Seminar Series

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"Chemomechanics of Cell-matrix Interactions:  Pulling it All Together"

Krystyn Van Vliet, PhD
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Although it is well appreciated that the interface between cells and the extracellular environment is dynamic, the mechanisms by which small perturbations in chemical and mechanical cues result in dramatic functional changes remain poorly understood. Here, we will discuss our recent experimental and computational studies of cell-material interactions in the context of vascular biology relevant to wound healing, angiogenesis, and cancer. Our experiments focus on molecular- to cellular-scale coupling between chemistry and mechanics (chemomechanics) at cell surfaces, and our simulations predict molecular- to cellular-scale mechanisms for this dynamic feedback. By quantifying adhesive ligand-receptor interactions with picoNewton-scale force resolution, we show why modest changes in extracellular matrix stiffness or pH can result in impressive changes in cell adhesion, contraction, and migration. By creating in vitro culture environments that are more similar to the crowded in vivo environments than our typical dilute media, we demonstrate a cell-matrix reciprocity that can be used to engineer stem cell functions. By rapidly measuring the forces exerted by stem and vascular tissue cells, we show how mechanical contraction of perivascular cells can both strain and stiffen the microenvironment of endothelial cells. Finally, by using mechanical force to "sort" such heterogeneous cell populations, we show that physical markers of biological function offer certain advantages over molecular markers for our basic science and clinical applications of stem and cancer cell biology.

The Bioengineering Seminar Series is a joint seminar series between IBB and the BME department. Seminars are held on Tuesdays or Thursdays between 11am-12pm in IBB room 1128 unless otherwise indicated.


  • Workflow Status:Published
  • Created By:Colly Mitchell
  • Created:06/13/2011
  • Modified By:Fletcher Moore
  • Modified:10/07/2016