We propose to develop a versatile microfabrication cell culture platform with integrated artificial functional components to control cell microenvironment and mimic in vivo conditions. Such a platform is readily adapted to an atomic force microscope (AFM) system to directly probe tissue and cell mechanical properties in situ under various conditions, providing insights into important mechanosensing mechanisms relevant to vital processes, such as homeostasis, morphogenesis, and metastasis.
Tissues, cell clusters, and cells will be cultured on designed substrates to untangle the effects of external parameters. With the platform we will systematically measure the visco-elastic properties of biological systems including epithelial tissues, invasive cancer cells and cell clusters, as well as stiffness of cell wall in growing fungi. We will perform these measurements at various length scales from subcellular to multicellular scales. The AFM measurements (imaging, mechanics) will be coupled to the traction forces exerted by cells.
We anticipate that such a platform will provide a standardized solution for various research topics in mechanobiology.