Biomechanics and Mechanobiology
Mechanical forces play critical regulatory roles in many physiological and disease processes. Cornell’s program in Biomechanics and Mechanobiology includes collaborations between engineers, life scientists, veterinary, and medical professionals and continues to pioneer new fundamental and applied research.
A research portfolio of top ranked engineering, veterinary, and medical schools has enabled Cornell to pursue unparalleled breadth and depth in biomechanical and mechanobiological inquiry. Our research topics extend across 10 orders of magnitude in length, from nanoscale mechanics in individual cells and extracellular matrices to whole organ function in large animal models. Cornell is also pushing the frontiers of mechanobiology by linking cell and molecular biology to tissue structure at the meso-scale, creating new theories and experimental test systems that are integrated with genetic and molecular tools to discover functional principles in biological structures with the long-term goal of improving human health.
Faculty research interests
Professor Nelly Andarawis-Puri’s lab focuses on tendon research with a multi-disciplinary approach that incorporates biomechanics, biology, imaging, and mathematical modeling to investigate the structural and regulatory function of the tendon ECM. Her ongoing research will provide novel insight into the functions of the ECM in modulating the canonically ineffective healing and remodeling cascade; an unknown that has been a hurdle to the development of effective therapeutics.
Prof. James Antaki’s lab focuses on five main application areas: circulatory support systems for children, decision-support tools for severe heart failure, diagnostic technology for the home and point-of-care to improve patient engagement, multi-scale modeling of thrombosis in artificial circulation, and development of medical devices for global health.
Prof. Larry Bonassar ’s lab focuses on elucidating mechanisms by which the complex microstructure of cartilage gives rise to its ability to resist multiaxial loading and minimize friction. They then apply these multiscale structure-property paradigms toward understanding the bio-mechanical uniqueness of different cartilages, including articular cartilage, auricular cartilage, airway cartilage, meniscus, and intervertebral disc.
Prof. Jonathan Butcher ’s lab integrates multi-scale computational modeling and micro scale experimental approaches to study the biomechanics and mechanobiology of cardiovascular soft tissue development, growth, remodeling, and disease. He pioneered the use of MicroCT for quantitative dynamic analyses of live embryonic growth and cardiac function. His group also uses molecular gain/loss strategies to understand how changes in adhesive signaling control heterogeneous cellular interactions critical for proper tissue architecture assembly in vitro and in vivo.
Professor Christopher Hernandez’s research concentrates on the material properties and mechanobiology of the musculoskeletal system and single celled organisms. His laboratory is interested in interactions between cell activity and bone structure and growth. His group uses clinical tissue, in vivo models, traditional and novel materials testing and micro- and nano-fabricated devices.
Prof. Jan Lammerding’s lab is developing and applying novel experimental techniques to probe subcellular mechanics and the cellular response to mechanical stimulation, with a particular focus on the cell nucleus. They are investigating to what extent impaired nuclear mechanics and increased cellular sensitivity to mechanical strain contribute to human diseases such as muscular dystrophy and cardiomyopathies, and whether increased nuclear deformability could also aid metastatic cancer cells to spread through the human body.
Prof. Esak (Isaac) Lee’s lab aims to understand the morphogenesis, homeostasis and disease pathogenesis of lymphatic vessels and blood vessels and their microenvironments to provide new strategies for regenerative medicine and treatment of cancer, immune diseases, and edema. Dr. Lee is working to develop novel three-dimensional (3D) organ-on-chip systems to better understand the mechanisms by which endothelial cells, immune cells, and cancer cells regulate and respond to biological and mechanical cues.
Prof. Karl Lewis' Lab combines custom engineering and cutting edge imaging techniques to research the way musculoskeletal cells use mechanical forces for biological processes. They are presently using multiphoton microscopy to investigate changes in osteocyte mechanobiology in health and disease with the goal of identifying novel therapeutic targets. Additionally, the Lewis Lab is developing a novel technique for investigating bone-cartilage mechanotransduction events in live animals, a powerful tool for understanding joint disease.
Prof. Marjolein van der Meulen’s research focuses on musculoskeletal mechanobiology and tissue mechanics. Her laboratory studies adaptation to mechanical loading during development, maintenance, disease and repair of bone and other musculoskeletal tissues. Her lab is also interested in the determinants of whole bone strength and skeletal load-bearing function based on microscale tissue properties. Experiments in her laboratory combine in vivo models with in vitro testing, imaging and computational simulations.