Biomechanics of synaptogenesis: Using graphene as a strain sensor

Project Year: 


Team Leaders: 

Sabrina Jedlicka, Ph.D. (Material Science & Engineering)
Slava Rotkin, Ph.D. (Physics)

Graduate Students: 

Michael Blades
Massooma Pirbhai

Undergraduate Students: 

Angela Albrecht
Rebecca Cimera
Kabita Karki
Wesley Pierre
Kaitlyn Rodriguez
Philip Vendola

Project Description: 

This research endeavor will explore neural stem cell (NSC) biomechanics during differentiation. This phenomenon (how neurons mechanically interrogate their surface) is not well-understood, in part due to lack to methods to measure forces of this nature. To examine these forces, the team will couple stem cell biology and mate­ri­als engineering with graphene physics. The mechanical forces applied by NSCs at different differentiation stages will be measured and correlated to downstream effects (such as whether the cell becomes a neuron or an astrocyte). To achieve the resolution required to track cellular biomechanics, large area graphene films will be used and strain responses measured using Raman spectroscopy. The specific summertime objective will include investigating the methods required to integrate a large graphene surface with a NSC compatible substrate, developing the methods required to analyze strain using Raman spectroscopy, and examine the biomechanical forces exerted by NSCs during cell development.