Stem cell fate in tissue is governed by a multivariate presentation of signals that orchestrate diverse forms and functions. Using hydrogel micro-engineering and stem cell bio-engineering, I am investigating how biochemical, biophysical, and biological cues in the cell and tissue microenvironment orchestrate cell fate, matrix secretion, and hierarchical organisation.
Stem cell behaviours (e.g. adhesion, spreading, proliferation, differentiation) are not only regulated by biochemical factors but also affected by physical signals in cellular microenvironment. Thus, mechanobiology has emerged as a highly interdisciplinary research field investigating the cellular mechanosensing and mechanotransduction processes. However, recent progress investigating fundamental cell-ECM interactions continue to challenge early findings in this field. Key remaining challenges are (i) decoupling the effects of different properties (chemistry, structure, and mechanics) in the cell microenvironment, (ii) understanding and harnessing the roles of periodicity and drift in these factors, (iii) understanding the molecular mechanisms that govern the mechanosensing and mechanotransduction process.
The transformation of stem cells into highly diverse shapes with different functions is a fundamental principle in stem cell and developmental biology. Understanding the self-organisation principles can help us to better understand how embryo and organ develop. To investigate this significant processes by which the different tissues can be developed from a cluster of stem cells, I used an interdisciplinary approach, employing a combination of cell biological, biochemical and biophysical methods with genetic tools. I am interested in addressing how the interplay between the physical processes driving morphogenesis and the gene expression pattern determining cell fate specification.