Cells are able to sense and respond to external mechanical stimuli from their surrounding extracellular matrix (ECM) via a process called mechanotransduction. Increasing amount of studies show that the physiochemical properties of the ECM have a crucial role in determining cellular fate in various different cellular processes in tissues. Ability to visualize and localize intracellular proteins inside cells in 3D volumes in high spatiotemporal resolution, and in situ dynamic control of the stiffness of the surrounding ECM, is required to truly understand cellular mechanotransduction. We will achieve this using a unique STED confocal–rheometer instrument which allows for a super-resolution fluorescent imaging of 3D volumes and the simultaneous application of force to the ECM material while measuring its viscoelastic properties. This multidisciplinary project will approach this goal from several sides such as fluorescent labelling of both the ECM and cell proteins as well as their subsequent opto-mechanical studies.

Supervisor: Dr Petri Turunen ( & Prof Alan Rowan