We are interested in high-strain-rate bio-mechanics for disease diagnosis and cell engineering. The study on mechanical responses of biomaterials, at the levels of individual cells and organs, will provide opportunities for progress in disease diagnosis, generation of new methods in cell engineering, and profound understanding in traumatic injuries.
Multi-scale quantitative measurement of biophysical properties in clinical samples and internal tissues is imperative for biomechanical markers that can capture subtle mechanical changes associated with abnormal transformation.However, existing methodologies have limited sensitivity for measuring mechanical properties of target cells/tissues in a quantitative, reproducible manner. In particular, in vivo mechanical measuring presents critical challenges because surrounding tissues damp mechanical agitation and, as one result, significantly reduce force resolution. We are currently studying three biological systems, single cells, skins and bones.
Cell research will address the continuing issue of metastasis, which causes more than 90 percent of cancer-related deaths, while remaining one of the most poorly understood aspects in carcinogenesis. Thus, mechanical phenotyping of individual cancer cell holds unique potential to advance diagnosis of metastasis along with existing biochemical and genetic screening. The cell research will address this challenge by developing strain-rate-dependent single cell physical characterization techniques.
Skin research targets skin cancer, the most prevalent malignancy worldwide, affecting one in five Americans and resulting in over 8,500 new diagnoses every day. While many of these tumors can be cured by surgical removal, skin tumors are like icebergs, with much of their bulk residing below the surface and reaching beyond their visible borders. So curative surgeries either require taking a large amount of normal-appearing skin or staged excisions that are time-consuming and costly. The diagnosis of skin cancer could be significantly improved with minimally invasive techniques that quantify tissue stiffness, and thus tumor extension. With improved diagnostic measures, we can decrease morbidity from unnecessary biopsies as well as from unnecessary removal of normal skin surrounding the tumor.
Bone research focus on developing a non-invasive approach for measuring skeletal mechanical properties for use in predicting osteoporotic fractures as well as monitoring fracture healing.