2022 Undergraduate Summer Research Program Participant

Home Department: Undeclared
Mentor: Fan Yang (Orthopaedic Surgery and Bioengineering)

“Harnessing Sliding Hydrogels to Elucidate How Mobility Modulates Mechanosensing and Stem Cell Differentiation in 3D”

Mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) development into connective tissue, blood vessels, and lymphatic tissue strongly depends on the microenvironment of the cells. When encapsulated in physically crosslinked hydrogels, MSCs exhibit stiffness-dependent differentiation with increasing stiffness promoting osteogenesis (or brittle bone disease). However, in covalently crosslinked hydrogels, osteogenesis was minimized regardless of stiffness. Given that the key difference between covalently and physically crosslinked hydrogels is the absence or presence of molecular mobility, Georgios hypothesizes that mobility regulates how MSCs sense matrix stiffness (i.e., mechanosensing) and differentiation. He will harness sliding hydrogels, a tool invented by the Yang lab, to elucidate how mobility modulates stem cell stiffness mechanosensing and differentiation in 3D and identify the underlying molecular mechanisms. This work will contribute to our understanding of how cellular microenvironments influence mesenchymal stem cell development and related disease.