The mechanical properties of the extracellular matrix (ECM) have emerged as an important microenvironmental cue regulating cell spreading and cell fate decisions. Studies on mechanically tuneable synthetic substrates, such as polyacrylamide hydrogels coated with collagen or other ECM proteins, have demonstrated a strong correlation between hydrogel stiffness and cell adhesion, spreading, proliferation and differentiation. In this talk, I will show results of epidermal stem cell differentiation on a range of soft substrates as well as on controlled cellular patterns that limit collective behaviour, and dissociate the different chemical, mechanical and topological parameters involved in dictating cell phenotype. A crucial aspect that has received little attention thus far is the dynamic nature of how complex systems such as cells adapt to their environment. Complex networks could well share some characteristics even if the system as a whole is in a different state, and therefore the cellular response to mechanical properties might not be known when only looking at single observables as cell spreading, cell shape or lineage selection, at a single point in time. I will discuss unpublished findings, where wel demonstrate how hMSCs adapt to different substrates via different trajectories, resulting in steady state behaviour that is similar in certain aspects, but leads to fundamentally different cell states. 



Prof. Wilhelm Huck is a Professor of Macromolecular Chemistry at the University of Cambridge and Professor of Physical Organic Chemistry at the Institute for Molecules and Materials, Radboud University Nijmegen. He obtained his PhD in chemistry from the University of Twente in 1997 winning the DSM Award for best thesis. In 2004 he became the Director of the Melville Laboratory for Polymer Synthesis, University of Cambridge. In 2007 he was promoted to Full Professor. Awards include a DuPont Young Professor Award, a Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel award of the Humboldt Foundation and an ERC Advanced Grant. He is a fellow of the KNAW, co-founder of Sphere Fluidics, has supervised over twenty PhD students and published more than 225 papers.​​

About AIBN Seminar Series

The AIBN Seminar series showcases a range of seminars across different topics and disciplines