The Forces That Bind

Engineer Andrés García:

Studying the Mechanics of Cell Adhesion

Andrés García Sizes Up Sticky Cells

Engineer García wants to create biomaterials to heal broken bones.

Adhesion enables cells to


What happens when human cells become too sticky?

Answer: Cells cannot move

How Cells Move

Cells walk along body surfaces via tiny "feet," called focal adhesions, which connect with the extracellular matrix.

To move (extend, attach, release), what must cells exert?

Forces Are With You

Types of force:

Give an example of applied force.

Give an example of frictional force.

What non-planetary objects might this type of force affect?

García's "One Size Fits All" Solution

García Gains Momentum

How Tightly Do Cells Stick to a Surface?

Inside the cell spinner

  1. Plate containing cells sits on a disk holder

  2. Disk holder spins inside a chamber filled with liquid

  3. Spinning disk generates a 3-dimensional flow pattern that applies precise pressure detachment forces to the cells

Adhesion strength is calculated by counting cells remaining adhered after spinning stops.

Answering research question #1

What Can Change Adhesion Force?

Cellular stickiness depends on

Answering research question #2


Do more "feet" mean stronger or weaker adhesion?


Interdisciplinary Discovery

García's discoveries are the result of mixing concepts from two disciplines: cell biology and engineering.

Biologists study the complexities of living systems

Engineers take systems apart to measure them

Research Applications

In what ways might the knowledge that García has gained about focal adhesion mechanics be applied in human medicine?