Stem cell mechanobiology

Controlling stem cell fate by providing different microenvironments

Stem cells are able to feel/sense their surrounding biophysical/biomechanical cues. For decades the fate of stem cells was thought to be dictated primarily by biochemical signals including cytokines and growth factors.

However, more recent data suggests stem cells also respond to their neighbouring cells and extracellular matrices (ECMs).

Previous research has shown that stem cells from fat (adipose-derived stem cells – ASCs) were able to feel/sense and respond (mechanosense) to matrices mimicking stiffness of the brain, skeletal muscle, and bone, thereby differentiating into these respective tissue lineages.

Our group aims to study how mechanical cues (especially stiffness) control stem cells, by focusing on three areas:

  • investigating intracellular mechanism how stem cells respond to ECM mechanical cues
  • developing bio-inspired ECM (2D and 3D biomaterials) as platforms to control stem cell fate
  • programming stem cells to be used in stem cell therapy, tissue engineering and regenerative medicine.

For more background information, see the suggested readings below.

Suggested readings

Research team leader: Dr Yu Suk Choi

I completed my PhD at the University of Melbourne in 2010 prior to undertaking three years’ postdoctoral research at University of California, San Diego (UCSD), Bioengineering (US #2). After two years in Sydney Medical School as a research fellow, in 2015 I joined the School of Anatomy, Physiology and Human Biology as a lecturer and a leader of the Stem Cell Mechanobiology lab.

How to apply

Interested in becoming part of this project? Complete the following steps to submit your expression of interest:

Step 1 - Check criteria

General UWA PhD entrance requirements can be found on the Future Students website.

Requirements specific to this project include:

  • Minds with a background in science or engineering are welcomed.

Step 2 - Submit enquiry to research team leader

Step 3 - Lodge application

After you have discussed your project with the research team leader, you should be in a position to proceed to the next step of the UWA application process: Lodge an application. Different application procedures apply to domestic and international students.


Domestic students

All domestic students may apply for Research Training Program and University Postgraduate Awards (UPA) scholarships

International students

A range of scholarships are available from international organisations and governments. The full list, organised by country, is available on the Future Students website.

In addition, all international students may apply for International Research Training Program scholarships.

Indigenous students
Indigenous students are encouraged to apply for Indigenous Postgraduate Research Supplementary Scholarships.
Forrest Foundation scholarships
All international and Australian students who wish to study towards the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) at The University of Western Australia may apply for Forrest Scholarships.

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