Epithelial Mechanobiology Lab (EMLAB)
Department of BioEngineering
Indian Institute of Science
Our aim is to understand the fundamental principles behind the origin of diseases in epithelial tissues. We ask, “How do changes in cellular mechanics switch epithelia from a healthy state to a diseased state?” Our current focus is on cancer initiation and wound healing.
We combine bioengineering with cell & molecular biology and perform live microscopy to dynamically study 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 the shape and movement of cells. Additionally, we use 4D traction force microscopy to compute the force that cells apply to their surroundings.
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 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.
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.
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.
Bhargavi joined the lab as Research Assistant
Tanishq joined the lab for M.Sc. project work
Gokul joined the lab for Summer Internship
Medhavi received the prestigious WISER Indo-German Grant Award from IGSTC
Aditya, Divija and Sanjana joined the lab for Summer Internship;
Akashar Joined the lab for M.Sc. project work
Sindhu received the EMBO travel grant to attend the conference "Physics of living systems: From physical principles to biological function" at Germany
Medhavi received the Infosys Young Investigator Award 2023