Epithelial Mechanobiology Lab

Indian Institute of Science

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Epithelial Mechanobiology Lab (EMLAB)

Department of BioEngineering

Indian Institute of Science

We engineer and study epithelial tissues in their physiological architectures by combining bioengineering with applied cell biology tools. Among other life goals, one of our major focus is to find answers to a largely unsolved question – “how do cancer begin in epithelia?”

Using genetic engineering and microscopy, we study dynamic cellular mechanics in epithelial tissues as the tissue transition from a healthy to a diseased state. We also employ automated cell segmentation, and tracking to obtain dynamic changes in shape and movement of cells. Additionally, we use 4D traction force microscopy, and force inference to compute the force that cells apply on each other and on their surroundings.

In addition to fundamental research, we build mini-physiological systems consisting epithelia and connective tissues in their native architectures to develop bio-responsive tools for personalized medicine and chemical testing.

Ongoing Research

Chaos within the tissue

Cells within the tissue are genotypically similar but show a chaotic biochemical and physical landscape at any given instant. Why do our cells need this heterogeneity? Is heterogeneity just noise or does this have a physiological relevance? We study the crosstalk between biochemical and physical heterogeneity within epithelial monolayers to understand its role in tissue remodelling and cancer initiation.

Breast cancer

Breast cancer majorly originates in the milk-producing lobules of the mammary breast. These lobules are of epithelial origin, spherical in shape and surrounded by a basement membrane. We ask, How does cancer originate in these lobules? Why does the incidence of breast cancer increase as we age?

To address these questions, we make organoids of breast acini in the lab mimicking aged Vs normal breast tissue. We then sporadically transform healthy tissue cells into oncogenic mutants to study the cellular mechanisms underlying cancer initiation.

Oral Cancer

The most common form of oral cancer, oral squamous cell carcinoma originates in the epithelium of the oral mucosa. This oral epithelium is packed as a stratified layer of epithelial cells over the submucosal layer made largely of collagen, and laminin. A pre-cancer condition called oral submucosal fibrosis greatly modifies this submucosal layer and appears in populations with a habit of chewing betel nuts and tobacco. How does this pre-cancer condition allow cancer cells to grow in the epithelial layer? We make organotypic models of oral mucosa to explore this problem at a cellular level.

Our Team

Medhavi Vishwakarma

Principal Investigator

Sindhu M

PhD Student

Amrapali Datta

PhD Student

Chandan Shringi

PhD Student

Tanishq Tejaswi

MS Project Student

Bhargavi Sridharan

Research Associate

Aswin Anto

MS Project Student

Prashant Kumar

MS Project Student

Ketaki Paithankar

MS Project Student

S V Ananthakrishna

Summer Intern


Our Collaborators


Join Us

We are actively seeking highly motivated and talented individuals to join our lab as PhD students or postdoctoral fellows. Our research program provides exciting opportunities to contribute to cutting-edge projects at the forefront of Mechanobiology, and to collaborate with a dynamic team of scientists. With state-of-the-art facilities and a collaborative research environment, we offer excellent opportunities for professional development and scientific discovery. Join us in our mission to make a positive impact on society through science!

PhD Positions Postdocs
Research Interns - Feel free to write to us for potential opportunities.

Latest News

Ketaki, Aswin and Prashant joined the lab for Master's project work.

June 2024

Anantha and Stuti joined the lab for summer internship.

June 2024

Bhargavi joined the lab as Research Associate

Oct 2023

Tanishq joined the lab for M.Sc. project work

June 2023

Medhavi received the Infosys Young Investigator Award 2023

April 2023

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BE Annexe, Indian Institute of Science, Bengaluru, Karnataka 560012


+91-80-2293-3709 (O)