The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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Yubing Sun

Assistant Professor

My research applies and integrates fundamental engineering principles, such as manufacturing, biomechanics, materials science, and micro/nanoengineering, to understand and harness the mechanobiology of stem cells for modeling currently incurable human diseases and for applications in regenerative medicine.

Stem cells, especially human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs), hold significant promise for modeling developmental and disease processes, drug and toxicity screening, and cell-based regenerative medicine. While many potent biochemical signals have been identified that can mediate stem cell functions, emerging new evidence suggests that biomechanical stimuli, including substrate rigidity and external forces, also play pivotal roles in the fate decisions of stem cells. Thus, to achieve a controllable, reproducible, and scalable culture system for stem cell self-renewal and differentiation, it is necessary to fully understand and leverage the mechanosensitive properties of stem cells to develop engineered material systems with controlled dynamic and instructive mechanical properties to direct stem cell behaviors. Furthermore, a paradigm-shifting research direction will use the principles of cellular mechanosensing to improve cell transplantation efficacy and to design physiologically relevant disease models for personalized, precision diagnostics.

Current Research
Current research in our lab focuses on developing enabling tools to regulate microenvironment of stem cells. For example, we used poly(dimethylsiloxane) (PDMS) micropost arrays (PMAs) with tunable height and Young's modulus to control substrate rigidity, and demonstrated that leveraging the intrinsic mechanosensitivity of human pluripotent stem cells (hPSCs), the purity and yield of functional motor neurons derived from hPSCs are drastically improved. Also, we developed a novel acoustic tweezing cytometry (ATC) technique that utilizes ultrasound excitation of membrane-bound gaseous microbubbles to generate controllable subcellular mechanical stimulations to live single cells and simultaneously probe intracellular contractile forces and rheological cell properties. Leveraging the tools we developed, we aim to discover novel mechanotransduction mechanisms and fabricate advanced tissue/organ in vitro models to study the developmental processes and disease progressions.

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Academic Background

  • BS University of Science and Technology of China
  • PhD University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
Peiran Zhu, Jamar Hawkins, Will Hamilton Linthicum, Menglin Wang, Ningwei Li, Nanjia Zhou, Qi Wen, Alicia Timme-Laragy, Xiaofei Song, Yubing Sun. Heavy Metal Exposure Leads to Rapid Changes in Cellular Biophysical Properties. ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering, vol 6, 1965-1976, 2020.
Tianfa Xie*, Jiming Kang*, Changhui Pak, Hongyan Yuan, and Yubing Sun. Temporal modulations of NODAL, BMP and WNT signals guide the spatial patterning in self-organized human ectoderm tissues. Matter, vol. 2, 1621-1638, 2020.
Bin Zhao, Ningwei Li; Tianfa Xie, Chungwen Liang, Yousef Bagheri, Yubing Sun, Mingxu You. Quantifying Tensile Forces at Cell–Cell Junctions with a DNA-based Fluorescent Probe. Chemical Science, vol. 16, 8558-8566, 2020.
Peiran Zhu, Ning-Hsuan Tseng, Tianfa Xie, Ningwei Li, Isaac Fitts-Sprague, Shelly R. Peyton, and Yubing Sun. Biomechanical microenvironment regulates fusogenicity of breast cancer cells. ACS Biomaterials Science & Engineering, vol. 5, 3817-3827, 2019.
Nariman Banaei, Javad Moshfegh, Arman Mohseni-Kabir, JeanMarie Houghton, Yubing Sun, and Byung Kim. Machine learning algorithms enhancing the specificity of cancer biomarkers detection based on SERS immunoassays in microfluidic chips. RSC Advances, vol. 9, 1859-1868, 2019.
Xufeng Xue, Yubing Sun, Agnes M. Resto-Irizarry, Ye Yuan, Koh Meng Aw Yong, Yi Zheng, Shinuo Weng, Yue Shao, Yimin Chai, Lorenz Studer & Jianping Fu, Mechanics-guided embryonic patterning of neuroectoderm tissue from human pluripotent stem cells, Nature Materials, vol. 17, 633, 2018.
Yubing Sun, Koh Meng Aw Yong, Luis G. Villa-Diaz, Xiaoli Zhang, Weiqiang Chen, Renee Philson, Shinuo Weng, Haoxing Xu, Paul H. Krebsbach and Jianping Fu. Hippo/YAP-mediated rigidity-dependent motor neuron differentiation of human pluripotent stem cells. Nature Materials, vol. 13, pp. 599-604, 2014.
Contact Info

Department of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering
N571 LSL
240 Thatcher Road
Amherst, MA 01003-9292

(413) 545-4543