Welcome to the Leckband Group!

Our Multidisciplinary Team!

Our research focuses on biology at interfaces. Why study this? More than 85% of drug targets are cell surface receptors. Cells communicate with their environments through cell surface receptors. Biosensor and biomaterials designs exploit molecular recognition at interfaces. Yet interfacial environments differ radically from bulk solution where most biomacromolecules are studied. This raises several questions: What’s special about interfaces? How can we study the interfacial properties that affect biological function? How can we use this knowledge to understand biological function and solve biomedical problems.

Surface Force Apparatus

The following give a brief summary of the major current research topics.

Protein-Polymer Binding

Biointerfaces.  We are identifying fundamental properties of materials that impact material performance in clinical and industrial applications. Studies use nano scale force probes and surface analytical tools to identify interfacial properties that alter the structure and function of immobilized proteins. With the Gruebele lab (chemistry) we are also developing innovative, analytical approaches that directly interrogate protein stability in situ within hybrid bio-materials. This research identifies unique, molecular scale design rules that improve biocompatibility and device performance in biological environments.

Cell Adhesion and Molecular Biophysics. Cells are the fundamental building blocks of tissues, but adhesion proteins are the biochemical glue that control the organization of all multicellular organisms.   Multiscale biophysical studies of adhesion proteins reveal  how protein nanomachines bind cells together, and transmit force to regulate cell signaling and tissue physiology. Our quantitative approaches include atomistic simulations, fluorescence, protein and cell engineering, and quantitative methods for quantifying molecular and cell adhesion. A current project is investigating how two- and three-dimensional confinement affects protein interactions on 2D lipid membranes and the self-assembly of adhesive junctions between cells (3D).  In another project, we are collaborating with a group at Johns Hopkins to use fluorescence measurements to quantify interactions between adhesion proteins and growth factor receptors on the plasma membranes of live cells. Both research programs focus on protein-protein interactions on cell surfaces and their influence on cell adhesion and signal transduction.

Simulating Force Transduction

Mechano-Biology. Mechanical cues are widely recognized to play a major role in regulating cell and tissue functions. We are identifying how cells sense force, and then using this information to both understand biological processes and control cell and tissue functions. Our ground-breaking discoveries reveal how adhesion proteins transduce mechanical cues to regulate signaling and tissue physiology. We are mainly focused on identifying force transduction mechanisms in cardiovascular disease and cancer. Research also includes developing analytical tools for exploring the interplay between mechanics, cell signaling, and tissue functions. Recent projects focus on cardiovascular disease, stem cell differentiation, and tumorigenesis and involve collaborations with clinicians, cell biologists, and tissue engineers.

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