We are interested in the physics of the process of Mechano-transduction: how cells sense mechanical forces and adapt their function in response to those forces.
Our focus is on the mechanosensing protein YAP, which is now considered as the universal reader of cell shape changes: when cell spreads (for example due to strong adhesion with substrate or due to stretch) YAP moves to nucleus where it can turn on the transcriptional activity that controls cell migration and proliferation. On the other hand, less spread cells (lower adhesive areas or due to compression) have YAP in cytoplasm that is linked with cell-death and extrusion. Therefore, the ratio of YAP nucleus to cytoplasmic ratio is an order parameter that determines cell response (the movie below shows one cycle of YAP shuttling between cytoplasm to nucleus and back to cytoplasm).
We use external mechanical cues such as stretching/compression (using StreX Cell biaxial stretching device) and confinement (using 4DCell Micro-patterning kit) to illicit various mechanical inputs that cells receive from their micro-environment.