Mechanobiology: How Do Small Cells Create Large Living Creatures

Speaker: Prof. Michael P. Sheetz    

Time: 15:00-16:00, Sunday, March 18, 2018

Venue: Room 212, Shaw Run Run Science Hall, Yuquan Campus



All life is created by cellular units smaller than grains of sand.  The challenge of Mechanobiology is to understand how forces and growth at the cellular level are created and controlled to shape the organs and ultimately the organism. What is emerging is the realization that cells use a standard set of tools to create tissues just like you and I use a standard set of tools to build a house. The major difference is that at the length scale of cells there are only very rapid diffusional processes that need to be averaged over time for cellular functions. Thus, similar to your hand phone that has chips with billions of And/Or gates to perform the critical functions, cells have billions of protein motors and enzymes that act on the sub-second time scale to produce the emergent property of a cellular function.  We will discuss one cellular device, a sensor of matrix rigidity that is critical for cell differentiation in development and cancerous cell growth. It has a complexity that gives us a window into how other cellular functions can work to create the diverse biological systems that we see every day. 


About the speaker:

Michael P. Sheetz is a cell biologist at Columbia University, and a distinguished professor and the founding director of the Mechanobiology Institute at the National University of Singapore. He pioneered mechanobiology and biomechanics. In 1968, Sheetz earned  the bachelor's degree at Albion College, and in 1972 get his Ph.D. at the California Institute of Technology. In 1985, he became a professor of cell biology and physiology at the Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. Since 2000, he has been a professor of cell biology at Columbia University, New York.  He started the Mechanobiology Institute in 2009.