Cell Cycle; Cell growth, differentiation and development; Cytoskeleton and cell motility; Gene Expression; Genomics and proteomics; Molecular and Cellular Biology; Molecular Basis of Disease; Signal Transduction
I am a cell biologist and bioengineer, and my primary research focuses on the rapidly growing area of cell mechanics and mechanotransduction: the role that mechanical forces play in regulating cellular function from healthy to diseased phenotypes.
(1) Cardiovascular Biology, Mechanics and Disease:
Funding source: NIH/National Heart Lung Blood Institute (9/1/2022-8/31/2027; PI)
Empire Discovery Institute (11/4/2022-11/3/2023; PI), American Heart Association (7/1/2018–6/30/2022; PI)
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the main cause of death globally. Arterial stiffness is associated with many CVD. The molecular mechanisms governing arterial stiffening and the phenotypic changes in vascular smooth muscle cells (VSMCs) associated with the stiffening process are key areas in cardiovascular biology, mechanics and disease. Evidence suggests that arterial stiffening can drive aberrant migration and proliferation of VSMCs within the vessel wall. Yet, the underlying mechanisms regulating vascular stiffening and the molecular changes within VSMCs associated with the stiffening process remain unclear. While medications reduce hypertension, none specifically target pathways directly related to arterial stiffness.
The overall goal of work in my lab is to address this gap in our understanding by investigating how changes in arterial stiffness affect VSMC function and fundamentally contribute to the progression of CVD. This study also addresses an important concept in vascular tissue remodeling (the interaction between extracellular matrix stiffness and VSMC behavior). Methodologically, my lab use a novel approach to dissect the molecular mechanism in VSMCs: My lab combines methods for manipulating and measuring tissue and cell stiffness using atomic force microscopy and traction force microscopy for simultaneously modulating substrate stiffness and measuring contraction force by culturing cells on a compliant substrate that mimics in vivo mechanical environments of the VSMCs.
(2) Smooth Muscle Cell Heterogeneity:
Highly heterogeneous responses of VSMCs to arterial stiffness or CVD make it difficult to dissect underlying molecular mechanisms. To overcome this, my lab integrates Mechanobiology, Vascular Cell Biology, and Machine Learning to manipulate stiffness and assess responses with unique precision. Machine learning is used to deconvolve inter- and intracellular heterogeneity and identify specific subcellular traits that correlate with stiffness and VSMC behavior.
(3) Optogenetics and Biophotonics in Stem Cell Biology:
Funding source: National Science Foundation (2/1/2021–1/31/2024; co-PI)
National Science Foundation (8/1/2017–7/31/2022; co-PI)
Major breakthroughs in the field of genomics, embryonic stem cell biology, optogenetics and biophotonics are enabling the control and monitoring of biological processes through light. Additional research in my laboratory focuses on developing a nanophotonic platform able to activate/inactivate gene expression and, thus, control stem cell differentiation in neuronal cells, by means of light-controlled protein-protein interactions. More specifically, the light-controlled molecular toggle-switch based on Plant Phytochrome B and transcription factor Pif6 will be utilized to control the nuclear fibroblast growth factor receptor-1, which is a master regulator of stem cell differentiation.
Open Positions: The Bae lab is currently accepting graduate students through the Pathology and Biomedical Engineering Masters program as well as motivated undergraduates.
For Graduate Students: I am looking for one or two graduate (MS) students who understand my research interests, have read my previous publications, and have their own ideas as to where my research efforts should be directed. All graduate students are required to complete and submit internationally recognized Journal article(s) before graduation from my lab. A Masters thesis should generate at least one first author publication.
For Undergraduate Students: I encourage all UB undergraduates (with GPA 3.0 or higher) to get "hands on" experimental training in the sciences. An undergraduate research project tends to be part of a larger whole, but I make sure to include credit for students work in presentations and publications.