University of Minnesota
Department of Biomedical Engineering
http://www1.umn.edu/bme
612-624-4507

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Patrick Alford

Patrick Alford

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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

Alford PW, Nesmith AP, Seywerd JN, Grosberg A, & Parker KK (2011) Vascular Smooth Muscle Contractility Depends on Cell Shape. Integr Biol. 2011; DOI:10.1039/C1031IB00061F.

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

Hemphill MA, Dabiri BE, Gabriele S, Kerscher L, Franck C, Goss JA, Alford PW, Parker KK. A Possible Role for Integrin Signaling in Diffuse Axonal Injury. PLoS One. 2011; 6:e22899

Alford PW, Feinberg AW, Sheehy SP, Parker KK. Biohybrid Thin Films for Measuring Contractility in Engineered Cardiovascular Muscle. Biomaterials. 2010; 31: 3613-3621.

Alford PW, Taber LA. Computational study of growth and remodelling in the aortic arch. Comput Methods Biomech Biomed Engin. 2008;11:525-38.

Alford PW, Humphrey JD, Taber LA. Growth and remodeling in a thick-walled artery model: effects of spatial variations in wall constituents. Biomech Model Mechanobiol. 2008;7:245-62.