(282a) Cell-Extracellular Matrix Mechanobiology: Subcellular Mechanisms And Therapeutic Applications

The ability of a living cell to control its three-dimensional structure is critical to normal tissue physiology. An individual cell derives this morphological control from its cytoskeleton, the three-dimensional network of biopolymers whose collective dynamics and mechanics define cell shape and enable cells to sense, process, and respond to a variety of physical cues in the environment, including mechanical force and the geometry and stiffness of the extracellular matrix (ECM). I will describe several experimental approaches my colleagues and I have taken to understanding how cytoskeletal polymers contribute to cellular mechanics and biophysical crosstalk with the ECM, which include the use of femtosecond laser ablation and other advanced biophotonics methods to probe the biophysical properties of microscale contractile and adhesive structures in living cells. I will also discuss our recent efforts to determine the role of cell-ECM mechanobiology in influencing the growth, invasion, and pharmacosensitivity of tumors of the nervous system, as well as our attempts to leverage cell-ECM mechanobiology to engineer cell fate and assembly in bottom-up tissue engineering systems.