Dennis Discher, Ph.D., is the Robert D. Bent Professor and Professor of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Bioengineering, and Mechanical Engineering and Applied Mechanics at the University of Pennsylvania.
Dennis’ research efforts use synthetic polymers and various micro/nano- tools to understand fundamentals in mechanobiology and to apply the knowledge gained to biomaterial designs, drug/gene delivery, and cell therapy. The Discher Lab pioneered studies of matrix elasticity directed stem cell differentiation, clarifying the effects on cells of a tissue stiffness scale illustrated as: brain < fat < muscle < bone. His lab was the first to measure and model nuclear mechanics in relation to mechanosensing, developing ‘omics methods and analytics to uncover scaling relationships between matrix and nuclear factors, including chromosome variations. His lab discovered the ‘phagocytic synapse’ between a macrophage and a cell displaying on its membrane or not a ‘marker of self’ protein that – with controlled inhibition – allows macrophages to be targeted to attack diseased tissue.
Keywords: stem cell differentiation; matrix stiffness and elasticity; nuclear plasticity; polymer synthesis and assembly; bioengineered therapeutics; cell engineering; mechanobiology
Working Group(s): Working Group 2: How do cells adapt to and change their mechanical environment; Working Group 3: How do cells remember their mechanical environment