• Collective Migration

    We are building novel tension sensors and creating new analysis tools to characterize the spatial and temporal dynamics of mechanosensitive signaling during collective cell migration.

  • Automated Multi-cell Analysis

    The Hoffman Lab combines micropatterning techniques with computational algorithms to study mechanical properties of model tissues.  This system could be useful for studying biological mechanisms such as the epithelial-mesenchymal transitional, an important aspect of embryogenesis and cancer metastisis.

  • FRET-based Tension Sensors

    We create biosensors that report the load across specific proteins through changes in the light they emit. Computational analysis of our FRET-based biosensors allows investigation of the spatio-temporal dynamics of forces across proteins within living cells.

  • Cell and Molecular Mechanobiology Lab

    Our group is located on the 1st floor of the Fitzpatrick Center for Interdisciplinary Engineering, Medicine, and Applied Sciences (FCIEMAS) at Duke University.  Check out our exciting research here.

  • Microscopy Techniques

    The Hoffman Lab uses cutting-edge imaging modalities, including super-resolution microscopy, to study the role of forces on dynamics and protein-protein interactions in living cells.

Welcome to the Hoffman Laboratory

The overall goal of the Cell and Molecular Mechanobiology Lab is advancing the current understanding of mechanotransduction by implementing an interdisciplinary approach founded in the fundamentals of cell biology, biophysics and biomolecular engineering.Our work relies on principles and techniques from fields such as:

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell and Developmental Biology
  • Protein Engineering
  • Biomaterials Engineering
  • Image Analysis
  • Live Cell Microscopy
  • Biophysics

Molecular-scale insight from genetics and cell signaling enables the development of therapeutics, often small molecules or antibodies, that can stop or reverse the effects of the disease by manipulating cell signaling. As cell signaling is most often understood through the principles of solution biochemistry, such as binding affinities and reaction rates, the investigated mechanisms and proposed therapeutics have often been based on these same principles. Yet, over the past decade, virtually every fundamentally important cellular process, including cell migration, division, death, differentiation, and metabolism, has been found to be sensitive to mechanical stimuli. Furthermore, many of the disease states most impacting human health but currently lacking effective treatments are at least partially caused or exacerbated by perturbed mechanical stimuli

The lack of effective treatments for mechanosensitive diseases reveals a knowledge gap in our understanding of the regulation of biological function. The field of mechanobiology has emerged to study the processes by which cells detect and respond to mechanical stimuli, termed mechanotransduction. However, application of insights from mechanobiological studies to the treatment of human disease is limited by the fact that our understanding of mechanotransduction is mainly conceptual and lacks the molecular-scale, mechanistic detail required for successful therapeutic development. We are addressing these challenges through integrated efforts in research, and we believe that these endeavors will be a key step in developing novel therapeutic approaches for the mechanosensitive diseases currently impacting human health.


Graduate students interested in the Hoffman Lab's research should apply to the Duke Biomedical Engineering (BME) PhD Program.  For additional inquiries, please contact Dr. Hoffman.