Department of Bioengineering
University of California, Berkeley
Faculty Scientist, Physical Biosciences Division
The Kumar Laboratory seeks to understand and control biophysical communication between cells and their surroundings. In addition to investigating fundamental aspects of this problem, we are especially interested in exploring the role played by cellular mechanobiological signaling in tumor and stem cell biology in the central nervous system. For example, we have shown that extracellular matrix stiffness acts through Rho family GTPases to bias neural stem cell lineage commitment. Remarkably, these same inputs and signaling systems may also be used to control adult neurogenesis in vivo as well as the neuroectodermal specification of pluripotent stem cells.
We have also been actively investigating the role of microenvironmental biophysical inputs in governing the adhesion, proliferation, and invasive motility of malignant gliomas, with a recent focus on glioma stem/initiating cells. In addition to traditional cell and molecular biological tools, our work features synthesis and fabrication of new tissue-mimetic culture platforms and a variety of single-cell microtechnologies, including atomic force microscopy and femtosecond laser nanosurgery.