Biomechanical properties of cells, including their contractility, adhesion strength, cell shape, are known to regulate various cell behaviors. In this seminar, I will present four examples demonstrating how biomechanical factors are functionally involved in the fusion of cancer cells, condensation of fibroblasts, directed cell migration, and cellular responses to toxicants. In the first part, I will discuss our recent finding that dynamically patterned substrates promote the fusion of breast cancer cells. Cell mechanics studies reveal that the fusion of cancer cells requires reduced Rho/ROCK and actomyosin activities, which is completed different from the fusion of muscle cells during development. In the second part, I will discuss the autonomous alignment and condensation of fibroblasts initiated by the confinements. Our studies reveal the role of cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions in the cell condensation process. In the third part, I will discuss how strain gradients of substrates regulate the directed cell migration and possible mechanisms. In the last part, I will demonstrate the potential of using a combination of biophysical features as a sensitive and specific approach to characterize early-stage cellular responses to metal toxicants. Together, we demonstrate the critical involvement of the biomechanical properties of cells in various developmental and disease processes.
Yubing Sun is an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He is also an adjunct assistant professor of chemical engineering and a faculty member of the Molecular & Cellular Biology Graduate Program and Institute for Applied Life Sciences at UMass. He received his Ph.D. degree from the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in 2015, and his B.S. degree in Materials Science and Engineering from the University of Science and Technology of China. His current research interests include mechanotransduction, stem cell biology, microfabrication, developmental biomechanics, lab-on-chip, and biosensing.