Living matter possesses fascinating material properties. Cells and tissues comprise viscoelastic materials with a resemblance to man-made soft materials such as polymer gels. However, they are unique in their ability to actively generate forces and change shape. We aim to understand the physical mechanisms that underlie this striking active mechanical behavior.

We approach this challenge by combining concepts and techniques from soft matter physics, biophysics, synthetic biology, and mechanobiology. We develop advanced measurement techniques that combine quantitative imaging with force measurements across length scales ranging from the cell/tissue level down to molecular scales. This includes rheology combined with imaging or small angle X-ray scattering, optical tweezer force spectroscopy, micropipette aspiration, and optical microrheology.

Our work is highly interdisciplinary, contributing a physics component to cell biology and regenerative medicine, and a biological perspective on materials design.

We have two main research lines:

  • Bottom-up synthetic cells to understand cytoskeletal functions:
    We investigate cell mechanics by reconstructing synthetic cells from a minimal set of cytoskeletal proteins enveloped in a lipid membrane. Synthetic cells allow us to perform quantitative measurements that can reveal the molecular basis of force transmission, generation and sensing in cells. Read more…
  • Mechanobiology of cell-matrix interactions:
    We investigate cell-extracellular matrix interactions by reconstructing synthetic tissues comprised of cells embedded within an extracellular matrix composed of key tissue components such as collagen. We measure the mechanical properties of these tissue constructs across scales from macro to molecular, in order to understand how cells sense and respond to their extracellular environment. Read more…
  • 2018 Pierre-Gilles de Gennes prize for Gijsje Koenderink

    Read more

  • Veni grants for Bas Overvelde and Cristina Martinez Torres

    The Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO) awarded Veni grants to AMOLF group leader Bas Overvelde (Soft Robotic Matter) and postdoc Cristina Martinez Torres (Biological Soft Matter). About the proposals …

    Read more

  • Nederlandse onderzoekers gaan samen bouwen aan kunstmatige cel

    Het Nederlandse onderzoeksconsortium BaSyC gaat de uitdaging aan om een kunstmatige biologische cel te bouwen. Daartoe heeft het een bedrag van bijna 19 miljoen toegekend gekregen uit het Zwaartekracht-programma van …

    Read more

  • Dutch researchers join forces to build synthetic cell

    Read more

Read more news articles

Group Members