University of Minnesota
Department of Biomedical Engineering

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Patrick Alford

Patrick Alford








Soft Tissue Biomechanics and Mechanotransduction

Our lab's work focuses on the mechanics of actively adaptive tissues. Many cells and tissues are exposed to dynamic mechanical perturbations, which require constant feedback by those cells to maintain their integrity and functionality. The study of cells' sensing and adaptation to mechanical stimuli is called mechanotransduction. Recent research has shown that mechanotransduction plays a role in a wide range of biological processes, from early embryonic development to sound perception to cancer metastasis.

Our lab takes a multimodal approach to understanding mechanotransduction and mechano-adaptation in soft tissues. We employ microfabrication and tissue engineering approaches to construct in vitro tissues that mimic the structure and function of native tissue, but in a highly controlled setting, allowing us to probe the force-feedback behavior of the tissues in the absence of other remodeling inducing stimuli found in vitro. Combined with theoretical models, our engineered tissues can be used to tease out the relationship between mechanical force and cellular responses, such as contraction, migration, and protein and gene expression.

We are interested in a wide range of biomechanics problems including aneurysm formation and growth, cerebral vasospasm, and neurotrauma. Our goal is to determine the mechanisms of these mechotransduction related dysfunctions to help guide future therapeutic strategies.

Selected Publications

Win Z, Buksa JM, Luxton GWG, Barocas VH, Alford PW. Cellular Microbiaxial Stretching to Measure a Single-Cell Strain Energy Density Function. J Biomech Eng 2017; 139(7) 071006

Steucke KE, Win Z, Stemler TR, Walsh EE, Hall JL, Alford PW. Empirically Determined Vascular Smooth Muscle Mechano-Adaptation Law. J Biomech Eng 2017; 139(7) 071005

Hald ES, Timm CD, Alford PW. Amyloid beta influences vascular smooth muscle contractility and mechano-adaptation. J Biomech Eng. 2016; 138(11): 111007

Steucke KE, Tracy PV, Hald ES, Hall JW, Alford PW. Vascular smooth muscle function depends on extracellular mechanical properties. J Biomech. 2015; 48 (12) 3044-3051

Win Z, Vrla GD, Steucke KE, Sevcik EN, Hald ES, Alford PW. Smooth muscle architecture within cell-dense vascular tissue influences functional contractility. Integr Biol. 2014; 6 (12), 1201-1210

Alford PW, Dabiri BE, Goss JA, Brigham MD, Hemphill MA, Parker KK. Blast-Induced Phenotypic Switching in Cerebral Vasospasm. Proc Nat Acad Sci. 2011; 108 (31) 12705-12710.