Adam J. Engler
Asst Professor, Bioengineering
Stem cell research, with an emphasis on how adult and embryonic stem cell differentiation is controlled by the extracellular matrix The Engler lab's research is focused on how cell behavior is directed by the extracellular matrix (ECM), a 3-dimensional (3D) fibrillar scaffold to which cells adhere. Investigations in the lab revolve around how the mechanical and biochemical properties of this 3D ECM direct the differentiation of human mesenchymal and embryonic stem cells into specific cell types; the development and patterning of the heart; and adhesion strength of cells. Specifically, the lab has shown that the influence of the mechanical properties of the ECM is enough to drive stem cell maturation into neuron, muscle, and bone. Current studies of this process involve determining what the spatial and temporal display of these ECM cues is in vivo and subsequently mimicking these changes in vitro using novel biological and synthetic polymer systems. By better recreating the natural microenvironment for these cells using increasing numbers of cellular cues, Engler and his team hope to improve our ability to regulate and more completely drive stem cell maturation into fully matured cell types. Several diseases that alter the mechanical properties of muscle tissue, such as heart attacks and Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy (DMD), are also studied, focusing on the therapeutic use of stem cells and 'pre-committed' cells to treat these diseases.
Jacobs School Faculty Update Your Profile