Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences

Stem Cell Mechanobiology Laboratory


Dr. Yu Suk Choi

Laboratory:Stem Cell Mechanobiology Laboratory
Location:Human Sciences, University of Western Australia

Examples of extracellular matrix properties to manipulate stem cell behaviours including microcontact printing and mechanical hydrogel patterning.

Area of Expertise

My research focus is in controlling stem cell fate by providing different microenvironments. The fate of stem cells were thought to primarily dictated by biochemical signals including cytokines and growth factors for decades, however, more recent data suggested stem cells also responded to their neighbouring cells and extracellular matrices (ECMs). Previously, I have shown that stem cells from fat (adipose-derived stem cells – ASCs) were able to feel/sense and respond (mechanosense) to matrices mimicked stiffness of brain, skeletal muscle, and bone and committed to differentiate into those tissue lineages, respectively. Intracellularly, stem cells transduce these biophysical/mechanical signals into biochemical signals from cell membrane to nucleus and this process is called mechanotransduction. Our group aims to study how mechanical cues (especially stiffness) control stem cells by focusing on 3 areas:

  1. investigating intracellular mechanism how stem cells respond to ECM mechanical cues,
  2. developing bio-inspired ECM (2D and 3D biomaterials) as platforms to control stem cell fate,
  3. programming stem cells to be used in stem cell therapy, tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.

Top 5 Publications

  1. Hadden WJ, Young JL, Holle AW, McFetridge ML, Kim DY, Wijesinghe P, Taylor-Weiner H, Wen JH, Lee AR, Bieback K, Vo B-N, Sampson DD, Kennedy BF, Spatz JP, Engler AJ, Choi YS. Stem cell migration and mechanotransduction on linear stiffness gradient hydrogels. PNAS 2017:114(22);5647-52
  2. Wen JH, Vincent LG, Fuhrmann A, Choi YS, Hribar K, Taylor-Weiner H, Chen S, Engler AJ. Interplay of Matrix Stiffness and Protein Tethering in Stem Cell Differentiation. Nature Materials 2014 Oct;13(10):979-87
  3. Choi YS, Vincent LG, Lee AR, Kretchmer K, Chirasatitsin S, Dobke MK, Engler AJ. The alignment and fusion assembly of adipose-derived stem cells on mechanically patterned matrices. Biomaterials. 2012;33(29):6943-51.
  4. Choi YS, Vincent LG, Lee A, Dobke MK, Engler AJ. Mechanical derivation of functional myotubes from adipose-derived stem cells. Biomaterials. 2012;33(8):2482-91.
  5. Hribar KC, Choi YS, Ondeck M, Engler AJ, Chen S. Digital plasmonic patterning for localized tuning of hydrogel stiffness. Advanced Functional Materials. 2014;24(31):4922-4926

Recent Grant Successes

  1. NHMRC Project Grant – Using mechanotransduction to regulate stem cell fate in heart tissue (CIA: Choi YS / 2016-2018 AU$385,983)
  2. Heart Foundation Future Leader Fellowship – Stem cell mechanobiology for heart regeneration – (CI: Choi YS, 2017-2021 AU$520,000)
  3. Heart Research Australia Project Grant 2014-07 - ECM stiffness driven cardiac induction of stem cells (CI: Choi YS / Jan 2014 – Dec 2017 AU$147,706.80)
  4. Mill House Foundation for Equipment Grant 2014 - Atomic Force Microscope (CIA: Choi YS / May 2014 AU$ 132,000)
  5. Muscular Dystrophy Association (USA) 241665 - Mechanically programmed adipose-derived stem cells to treat muscular dystrophy (PI: Engler AJ, Co-investigator: Choi YS / Oct 2012 – Jul 2015 US$390,000)

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