The overall goals of the Cell and Molecular Mechanobiology Lab are to utilize an interdisciplinary approach to advance the fundamental understanding of mechanotransduction and then to utilize this knowledge to guide the development of new treatments for mechanosensitive diseases.
Our work combines principles and techniques from fields such as:
- Protein engineering
- Molecular biology
- Soft matter physics
- Cell and developmental biology
- Biomaterials engineering
- Automated image analysis
- Live cell microscopy
Specifically, we engineer and use biosensors that report the tension across particular proteins in living cells through changes in the color of light they emit. This technology enables dynamic measurements of the loads supported by specific proteins and sub-cellular structures. Unlike more traditional techniques which measure the entirety of cellular force output, the ability of our sensors to measure mechanical force at the molecular level means they are innately compatible with concepts and approaches common in molecular biology and biophysics. We hope these molecular-scale insights will lead to advances in the understanding of mechanosensitive diseases, which include atherosclerosis, muscular dystrophies, and some types of cancer.
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.