Hongyan Long

The three-dimensional (3D) microenvironment of cells directs cell fate and ultimately shapes tissue phenotype. Cells interact with the microenvironment through soluble chemical and biological factors, as well as biophysical cues presented by the extracellular matrix (ECM), such as ECM stiffness, and ECM tethered adhesive ligands and growth factors. While it is understood that many signaling molecules are tethered to the ECM, the soluble formats have been typically applied in biological studies. To study the role of cellular mechanotransduction events in integrin and growth factor signaling, I am developing biocompatible hydrogel systems for studying individual and synergistic effects of ECM mechanical properties and tethered growth factors on cell behavior in 3D matrices.