The Valentine Lab at the University of California, Santa Barbara
Molecular & Cellular Biomechanics, Biomaterials, Bioadhesion

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  • Mussel-inspired materials

    We investigate the mechanical origins of mussel adhesive strength using natural mussel-derived plaques, as well as synthetic mimics. Using custom tensile testing and imaging we study how geometry, structural and mechanical gradients, infiltrates and dynamic bonding can improve the performance of natural and nature-inspired adhesives and load-bearing materials.

    (L) Image of a natural mussel plaque under tensile loading. (R) A PDMS-based synthetic structure with disk + stem geometry.

    Tissue and Cellular Mechanics and Mechanobiology

    We investigate how forces are generated, sensed, and transmitted in cells, and how these forces influence biological outcomes. One research thrust aims to understand the physical origins of tissue strength and shape using novel microscopy and micromanipulation techniques. Our results will advance our understanding of important force-sensitive biological processes, inclduing stem cell differentiation, wound healing, tissue development, and cancer metastasis.

    Reconstituted cytoskeleton
    Botryllus blood vessel
    • Delany Rodriguez, Brian P. Braden, Scott W. Boyer, Daryl A. Taketa, Leah Setar, Chris Calhoun, Alessandro Di Maio, Megan T. Valentine and Anthony W. De Tomaso "In vivo manipulation of the extracellular matrix induces vascular regression in a basal chordate" Molecular Biology of the Cell 28(14) 1883-1893 (2017).
    • Awarded an MRPI Award from the University of California Office of the President to lay the foundation for a Statewide Center on Vascular Mechanics and Mechanobiology (more here).
    • Learn more about the microhammer project, funded by the NSF and BRAIN initiative, to develop a MEMS device that enables unpredecented studies of the effects of tramautic force impacts on cells.

    Molecular Biophysics of the Cytoskeleton

    We use advanced microscopy and force spectroscopy techniques to measure the mechanical properties of molecular motor proteins and cytoskeletal filaments, with a focus on microtubules and kinesin-related proteins that participate in axonal transport and cell division. Both in vitro and cellular assays are used. We are particularly interested in how microtubule associated proteins (i.e. EB1, tau) influence kinesin motion and how multiple kinesin motors cooperate to move cargos in cells.

    Trajectory shows kinesin motion along microtubule (Click to play movie)


    Technique Development

    We are developing a number of novel imaging and force spectroscopy techniques, as well as specialized devices for micro- and nanoscale manipulation of single proteins, filaments, and cells.


    Valentine Laboratory, California NanoSystems Institute, Room 2404, Elings Hall, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA 93106; 805-893-2594.