Jianping Fu, Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Mechanical Engineering, University of Michigan
Our laboratory uses bioengineering techniques to study the effects of the environment on cell structure and function. Here, we have micro-engineered a silicone substrate composed of many post-like structures. The tops of the posts are coated with a protein to which cells readily adhere. In this experiment, we tested how human mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) respond to posts of different rigidity. MSCs have to potential to give rise to either fat cells or bone cell. Interestingly, when MSCs were placed on rigid posts, they made bone; on soft posts, they made fat! We are now studying how to force transduction tells cells which fate to choose.