The innovation engine for new materials

Benjamin Flores

Benjamin Flores


University of California, Santa Barbara


Mechanical Engineering

Site Abroad: 

Leibniz Institute for New Materials, Saarbruecken, Germany


Daniel Flormann

Faculty Sponsor(s): 

Franziska Lautenschlaeger

Project Title: 

Rheological Properties of the Cell Cortex

Project Description: 

The cell cortex is an assembly of actin filaments and myosin motors that make a highly dynamic network underneath the membrane. The mechanical properties of this active network determine morphogenic events such as the stress relaxation time and the cortex tension. The influence of cytoskeletal elements on mechanical properties of cells are investigated using Atomic Force Microscopy. For this experiment, measurements were performed on suspended and adhered RPE-1 cells by local and global analysis. The AFM (Atomic Force Microscope) has an indented cantilever for local measurement on the cell cortex and for global measurements a larger wedged surface cantilever is used. The parameters of interest are elasticity and viscoelasticity of the cell cortex. The different variables such as indentation, amplitude, force and so on have been tested and optimized to form a set procedure for the rest of the experiment. Now interest lies in comparing cells in suspension to cells adhered to a substrate under the influence of cytoskeletal drugs. The following drugs will be used in the future as controls: Blebbistatin, Y-27632, CK666, Calyculin A and possibly Latrunculin A. Each drug is expected to either inhibit or enhance the cell cortex in some way. This study will lead to a better understanding of the role the cortex plays in the mechanics of the cell.