Properties of the biopolymer scaffolding that surrounds cells in the body, known as the extracellular matrix, are known to influence many aspects of cellular functions. Cells can sense and respond to changes in stiffness, viscoelasticity, confinement, fibrillar networks, and adhesive ligands and these properties can regulate a vast number of cellular behaviors, including cell division, migration, differentiation, and even disease progression. Our lab builds tools to study the impact of these microenvironmental changes in the form of hydrogels for 3D cell culture. We seek to design hydrogel systems with a high degree of engineering control by utilizing tools such as stimuli-responsive chemistries, and use these hydrogels to evaluate cellular sensation and response to extracellular matrix properties.
We are particularly interested in developing and employing novel 3D hydrogels for applications in cancer, and stem cell differentiation and organoid generation.